Many immigrant families view President Barack Obama’s executive plan as a pathway to citizenship and great opportunity.
For Mario Hernandez and the approximately 170,000 undocumented residents of Riverside and San Bernardino County projected by the Migration Policy Institute to qualify for the amnesty program, it is a matter of sustainability.
“It’s only right that us hard working immigrants get the opportunity to receive fair wages,” Hernandez said. “It has been proven that we contribute by paying taxes.”
However a current court case at the Supreme Court level will determine whether Obama’s deferment plan to allow millions of immigrants across the nation work permits and temporary residency complies with constitutional law.
Community organizers on both the political right and left have denounced the plan for months. Republicans believe the president has overstepped his authority by aiming to initiate his own policies, while grassroots groups believe he is not doing enough for immigrants.
The Supreme Court announced that it has until June to make its decision on the Deferred Action for Parental Arrivals (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals the program. Created by the Obama Administration, both programs allow undocumented parents of U.S. born children and residents and undocumented youth to receive work authorization and be considered lawfully present in the country.
The twenty-six states that filed the injunction against the Obama Administration argue DACA and DAPA impose huge burdens, with additional costs for health care, law enforcement and education. Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), believes the decision made by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2015 to refuse the lifting of the injunction puts the pressure on the president and house lawmakers to “faithfully carry out the nation’s immigration laws.”
“The president does not have the authority to simply ignore immigration laws and substitute his own policies in their place,” Stein told the Associated Press back in November. “The ruling should serve as an impetus for Congress to act to defend the interests of the American people and the Legislative Branch’s plenary authority to set our nation’s immigration policies.”
Many community leaders, such as Javier Hernandez (no relation to Mario Hernandez) of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) for months have encouraged undocumented immigrants to prepare for possible implementation by holding informational sessions and clinics. He said it is prudent to help residents prepare.
“Many of the groups feel DAPA will become reality,” he said. “We also don’t want to send the message that it will be easy. It will require fees and proof of documentation.”
The immigrant rights leader believes the court case is a “political move” by the Supreme Court and the president to have awkward sentence final word on immigration policy. He believes Obama will use his record of deportations–which includes his recent decision to approve raids that have deported at least 121 Central American immigrants–to justify his current actions.
“Obama has deported over two million people. I definitely think the White House will look at that and say they have been enforcing the law. It’s something we’ve been saying for years,” explained the ICIJ leader. “The reality is he has, but [Obama] has deported some of the wrong people.”
The 26-year-old Pomona resident said the work of his organization and ally, the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition (IEIYC), will help shape a new narrative that demonstrates some parents do deserve the opportunity “to get out of poverty.”
“These are opportunities that the immigrant community has deserved for decades,” he explained. “Many of these people work menial jobs and live in poverty. This community of people are here to contribute not only economically, but culturally and socially.”
Hernandez, a landscaper from San Bernardino, said he struggles to make a liveable wage. The 40-year-old father of three children explained DAPA would provide the needed documentation to receive pay raises and employee benefits.
“It’s currently difficult to receive better opportunities,” Hernandez said in Spanish. “I can’t get better wages. If DAPA is approved, it will help us receive permission to work hard for more wages.
Rosario Frausto, also of San Bernardino, said she is gathering documents such as her children’s school records and financial records that will provide proof of her eligibility for the relief program.
“We went to the San Bernardino Community Service Center and received information on our possible eligibility,” said Frausto. “I’ve done everything I could to make sure we qualify, from staying out of trouble, to not asking for public assistance, and informing myself. DAPA will give me and my two [U.S. born] children security.”