By Sara Benitez, Latino Program Director for Faith in Public Life
The contentious debate over immigration policy has monopolized the 2016 election and next week the rhetoric from both sides of the issue will reach a fevered pitch. On Monday, April 18th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on President Obama’s immigration executive actions that affect more than 6 million U.S. citizens in immigrant families.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Texas, will determine whether President Obama’s executive actions, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), or expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will finally be allowed to go forward.
DAPA would keep families together, allowing long-term residents of the United States to live with and support their U.S. citizen children, and expanded DACA would give more people who arrived as children, commonly known as DREAMERS, the ability to plan for the future.
Twenty-six states Republican-led states challenged these initiatives which led to them being put on hold just two weeks after they were announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014. The future of both policies now rests in the hands of eight Supreme Court justices.
Now is the time for those of us who believe in compassion and justice to take a stand. Unfreezing DAPA and expanding DACA will strengthen our communities, protect the dignity of families, create jobs, raise wages and expand our economy. It is time to give immigrant families the opportunity to care for their children without fear as we work toward comprehensive immigration reform.
As a Latina growing up in an immigrant community in Idaho, I will never forget the day neighbors came to my grandmother’s house for help after immigration enforcement agents picked up several moms working in the beet fields nearby. Most of their children attended the newly opened Migrant Head Start center a few miles away and were unaware that their moms would not be coming home that afternoon.
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to work with many immigrant parents like those neighbors and hear their hopes for a brighter future. Everything they do is for their children, and at any moment our nation’s broken immigration system could rip their families apart.
As Latino Program Director for Faith in Public Life, I work to lift up the voices of faith leaders across the country who dedicate their lives to serving and advocating with immigrant families through a program called Lampedusa U.S.A.
Lampedusa U.S.A. was inspired by Pope Francis’ call to stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters, from his prayer at the Mexican border and at the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa where he mourned for refugees and immigrants who died seeking a better life. Like Pope Francis, faith leaders in our country are standing with immigrant families on the margins and calling for justice.
Today nearly 6 million American children live in constant risk of being separated from their immigrant parents. This doesn’t have to be the case. My prayer is that the Supreme Court justices will rule in favor of families.