5th Circuit should allow president’s immigration programs to move forward

Advancing Justice | AAJC signs on a friend-of-the-court brief arguing President Obama’s immigration actions will help the economy and communities

by Sandhya Bathija

Earlier this year, a federal district court put two of President Obama’s immigration actions, which would have offered immediate deportation relief to 4.9 million people, including half a million Asian Americans, on temporary hold.

Now, the case is on appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC yesterday joined more than 150 civil, labor and immigrant rights groups in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. Our brief argues that providing deportation relief and work authorizations improves the nation’s economy and our society.

The lawsuit, Texas, et al. v. United States, filed in December, was a last-ditch attempt by anti-immigrant lawmakers to block the implementation of the president’s deferred action programs, namely expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents (DAPA). The expansion of the DACA program would grant deportation relief to eligible youth who came to the United States as children, and the DAPA program would protect the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The court’s decision does not impact the current DACA program implemented in 2012.

Our brief was one of several in support of the Obama administration’s immigration actions, which economists predict will raise the GDP by more than by $90 billion over the next 10 years. It features stories from immigrants who are small business owners, primary breadwinners and social activists who would be able to increase their economic and societal contributions if the president’s programs could move forward.

For example, one story featured in the brief is about a woman named Nga who came to the United States from Vietnam on a visa in 2004 to reunite with her husband, a lawful permanent resident. Soon after she arrived, she began waitressing in Houston, Texas, and became an integral part of her community.

When Nga’s marriage ended, she learned her ex-husband had never completed the immigrant visa process for her. From then on, she faced years of challenges — living with an abusive uncle, moving to a women’s shelter with nowhere to go, and later being abandoned by her partner once he learned she was pregnant with his child.

In 2010, Nga had a baby girl, a U.S. citizen. After years with no way to earn a steady income because of her immigrant status, Nga lost custody of her child to her ex-partner. The president’s action on immigration would help Nga, who is represented by our Community Partner BPSOS-Houston, seek stable employment and she could work toward gaining back custody of her child.

In our brief, we argue that by delaying these programs, the courts are harming the nation’s economy and preventing aspiring Americans — like Nga — from fully participating in their communities.

Advancing Justice | AAJC has long supported the president’s executive action. In August, we sent a letter to President Obama highlighting why action on immigration is important to Asian Americans. Because 60 percent of Asian Americans are immigrants, we know firsthand that this country is built on the hard work of immigrants.

By seeking to ending deportations through these two programs, the president has opened the door for more immigrants to contribute and improve our country. Our hope is that the 5th Circuit now allows these programs to move forward.

Sandhya Bathija is the director of strategic communications for Advancing Justice | AAJC.

Further reading:

Column: 5 Reasons Why Asian Americans Must Support Executive Action on Immigration

Executive Action for Immigration Resource Page

Fact Sheet: Immigration relief after Texas v. United States

Fact Sheet: What you can do now to prepare for Obama’s executive action on immigration

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AAPIs to participate in our democracy. Follow: @johncyangdc @tao_minnis @meganessaheb

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