North Texas’ Hispanic pro-immigrant community was devastated Thursday when the much anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision on President Barack Obama’s immigrant plan ended up in a 4-4 tie.
“The Supreme Court has failed to stand on the right side of history and protect immigrant families,” said José Manuel Santoyo, a Southern Methodist University student. “It is very disheartening to see that the Supreme Court has voted in against a program that would have granted relief to almost 5 million people living in the shadows, like my mother.”
Protest marches against the decision were held in Dallas and several other cities nationwide Thursday evening. Dozens of demonstrators turned out in downtown Dallas for a march to City Hall.
Reaction to the ruling mirrored the tone of the ongoing immigration debate, with pro-immigrant groups demanding a new push for comprehensive immigration reform and illegal immigration opponents decrying the plan as a power grab.
Reaction was also aligning mostly along political party lines, with Democrats disheartened and Republicans delighted.
For our kids, this is about whether mom or dad will be here tomorrow. This is a human tragedy, and 4 million people’s lives hang in the balance. Tragically, this decision endangers the lives of so many. It’s time for Republicans to stop trying to score political points by tearing families apart.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday’s ruling was a clear win.
“As the President himself said, he is not a king who can unilaterally change and write immigration laws,” he said. “Today’s ruling is also a victory for all law-abiding Americans — including the millions of immigrants who came to America following the rule of law.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick agreed and said his personal efforts won’t stop.
“I will continue to lead the effort to secure the Texas border,” he said, reminding Texans that the Senate last year led the effort to boost border security funding to $800 million. “In Texas we are taking the right steps to protect our citizens.
“Next session, border security will continue to be a top priority for me.”
Douglas Interiano, CEO and founder of Proyecto Inmigrante in North Texas, estimates that between 200,000 to 300,000 people in North Texas were eligible for two programs outlined by Obama in November 2014.
The order expanded DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, by removing the age limit, which was 30, and permitting applications from those who have lived in the U.S. since 2010. It also made work permits expire in three years instead of two.
Also under the order, DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, would protect about 4.1 million unauthorized immigrants nationwide. It would allow them to apply for work permits, provided they were parents of U.S.-born children or legal permanent residents, passed a background check and paid fees.
Fort Worth immigrant advocate Gloria Gonzalez-Garcia said the community is “devastated” and millions of families will be “gravely affected.”
Our parents are having to remain in the shadows.
Sandra Tovar, immigration advocate from Fort Worth
“Families, that if given the opportunity, could prove to the government their self sufficiency and add to the country’s economy,” she said. “It is very devastating, that our leadership falls short of representing U.S. citizens petitioning for their loved ones. Disgraceful.”
Interiano said the plan was aimed at keeping law-abiding immigrant families together and bringing people out of the shadows. The programs would help many families that describe themselves as “mixed status” because members include U.S.-born holders of green cards and others with no legal status.
Interiano said one of the biggest requirements is that people show good moral character, so it was also focused on people who aren’t criminals.
“These were very good programs,” Interiano said, adding that past presidents have issued executive actions on immigration.
“Justice was not served for those families,” said Interiano, adding that there is a sense in the Hispanic immigrant community that they didn’t get a “fair shake” from a politicized Supreme Court. “That doesn’t reflect the values of the United States of America. I am so upset.”
The ruling has reinforced to many in the pro-immgrant community that there is much work ahead. They said they need to continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform and work to get pro-immigrant voters to the polls in November.
Sandra Tovar, a 28-year-old Fort Worth immigration advocate, said she had aunts and uncles that would have benefited from the DAPA. Tovar is living and working under the protection of Obama’s 2012 DACA program — an effort that protected young people who were brought to this country without status as children.
“We really thought we were going to receive a positive response from the Supreme Court,” Tovar said. “That was not the case. It seems like we are going back to square one, where our parents are having to go unrecognized.”
The stakes in November’s election could not be higher with Hillary Clinton promising to continue President Obama’s lawless approach and pack the courts with activist judges.
Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee
Tovar said it is a wake-up call and that groups like the North Texas Dream Team and Mi Familia Vota will continue urging those who qualify to become citizens and those who are eligible to register to vote.
Tovar said there is a sense of urgency in the community.
“If the President ends up being Republican,” Tovar said. “It has been promised that DACA would be one of the first things they would get rid of.”
Miguel Solis, president of the Dallas-based Latino Center of Leadership Development, said while the ruling is a “severe setback,” it is not a final defeat. The fight for immigration reform continues, she vowed.
“The next president will either take this decision and repeal the executive action or will say, ‘We need to continue to push for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform and expand the executive actions.’ ”