US Courts Maintain Undocumented Immigrants in the Shadows

As millions of Americans prepare for Thanksgiving celebrations with family and friends, eating turkey and watching football, undocumented immigrants in the United States can’t get a break.

Recently, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a court injunction against President Obama’s 2014 immigration executive order. In that order, Obama sought to temporarily shield an estimated five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. This includes the 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).


Not long after the executive order, 26 Republican-led states wasted no time in finding a conservative friend in U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, located in Brownsville, Texas, who quickly ordered a court injunction. By appealing this injunction, the Obama administration experienced another defeat by a 2 to 1 ruling from the conservative-majority Fight Circuit. Consequently, on November 20, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to review and reverse this recent ruling, leading the states to ask for a delay. Ideally, should the Obama administration prevail, it aims to implement this key executive order before President Obama leaves the White House.

While the Republican governors against DAPA and DACA argued that the Obama’s immigration executive order disregarded administrative review procedures, created financial burdens for states (such as costs for drivers licenses) and superseded Congress in re-creating new immigration laws, among other legal issues, it’s crystal clear that both of these programs only provide temporary and limited relief from deportation for almost half the of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Unlike President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which provided over three million undocumented immigrants with citizenship, neither DAPA nor DACA provide a pathway to citizenship to those qualified individuals who live and work America’s shadows.

In consulting with two leading legal scholars, both Dean Kevin R. Johnson of UC Davis Law School and Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of the UC Irvine School of Law state that there’s a real chance that the Supreme Court, should it grant review of the case, could reverse the Fifth Circuit ruling. Given the unpredictable nature of Supreme Court on rulings, both distinguished legal scholars refer to Arizona v. United States (2012), where the Supreme Court ruled against Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070. Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the Obama administration in this latest case, led by Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr., millions of undocumented immigrants will finally receive some much needed, temporary relief from deportation.

This will have negative ramifications for Republican leaders in their hope to win the White House in 2016. Republican leaders, in appealing to mostly white voters, have prioritized immigration as a key political platform. By doing so, they blame America’s domestic woes on Latino immigrants. This obviously doesn’t sit well with most Latino voters. Thus, when it comes to electing the next president, Latinos won’t forget those who vilified and scapegoated their family members, friends, acquaintances, co-workers and neighbors, In short, brown people. Similarly, given that immigration represents an important issue for Asian Americans, they too won’t forget those who disrespected and offended members of their communities—with or without legal status.

When it comes to winning the White House in 2016, it appears that many Republican leaders suffer from a form of collective amnesia. From filing lawsuits against President Obama’s immigration executive orders to refusing to address comprehensive immigration reform to seeking to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and revoke citizenship from their U.S.-born children, these leaders can’t seem to remember a key lesson or major mistake from the 2012 Republican nominee, former Gov. Mitt Romney, with his “ingenious” immigration plan: self-deportation.

As long as Republican leaders continue hold in contempt the interests of Latino voters, along with Asian Americans, as of January 20, 2017, they surely won’t forget three words: President Hillary Clinton.


Alvaro Huerta, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is the author of “Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm,” published by San Diego State University Press (2013).