In November 2014, President Barack Obama announced a series of administrative reforms to his immigration policies, collectively known as executive action on immigration. The centerpiece of these reforms are two deferred action programs—Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expanded version of an existing program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). These programs have been tied up in litigation. On January 19, 2016, the Supreme Court announced that it will review a lower court’s ruling which has blocked implementation of the programs. The Supreme Court is likely to hear oral arguments in April 2016. A decision is expected in the case, United States v. Texas, by the end of June 2016.
Without a doubt, the deferred action programs, which taken together could provide as many as 5 million immigrants with temporary relief from deportation, will continue to be a fixture in the presidential election year. As such, it is a rich opportunity in the classroom to: extend critical discussions on the separation of powers, examine the effects of policy on individuals, and analyze the arguments made by both sides to help students become civically engaged and informed.
In light of the continuous stream of misinformation and inflammatory comments in the politicized immigration debate, these executive actions are no exception.
We seek to address how teachers can use this timely and relevant case with updates we’ve made to our lessons on executive action that allow high school students to examine the issue both critically and creatively. Our lessons are aligned to the Common Core and C3Framework for Social Studies Standards.
Additionally, we explain below some basic information on executive action as well as links for further understanding the legal challenges.
Engaging, Adaptable Lessons
As suggested by the title, students will apply inductive reasoning skills about individual school policies set by the principal in order to understand what execution action is and what its limitations are.
The President’s executive action on immigration has been greeted with joy, relief, sadness, and contempt. How can one decision trigger so many varied responses? By weaving non-fiction accounts into creative writing, students will be able to write their way into understanding the multiple perspectives that surround this immigration issue. Importantly, the lesson uses multimedia to engage students and provide the relevant context and background information for the lesson.
To view a related resource for the classroom, see:
- “Supreme Court to review Obama’s power on deportation policy” (The Washington Post, January 2016) We recommend students watch the brief “Immigration by the Numbers” video (0:56) included in this article.
If You Want to Learn More… Here’s a Brief Summary
There are more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. In 2012, the Obama administration allowed young immigrants who were brought here as children to apply for renewable two-year deportation deferrals, work permits and social security cards. This original program, called DACA, is still in effect and is not challenged by the lawsuit United States v. Texas.
The reforms in the 2014 executive action range from temporary protections for an expanded group of unauthorized young people (expanded DACA) and for certain parents (DAPA), to modernizing and streamlining the visa application process, to new guidance to better prioritize the immigration agencies’ use of their limited enforcement resources.
The centerpiece (and most debated) of these reforms is an expansion of the current DACA initiative and the creation of the DAPA initiative for the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who meet certain criteria — including passing a background check and having lived in the country at least five years. Together, these initiatives could provide as many as 5 million immigrants with temporary relief from deportation.
The Obama administration’s executive action was subsequently challenged by 26 states and blocked by lower courts. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a trial court decision to enjoin, or halt, expanded DACA and DAPA. The federal government then requested that Supreme Court hear the case (this is called a petition for certiorariSeven groups filed amicus (or “friend of the court”) briefs in support of the requestThe Supreme Court agreed to review the case in January 2016.
To view related, more detailed resources, see:
- A Guide to the Executive Action (Special Report, November 2014)
- Executive Grants of Temporary Immigration Relief, 1956-Present (Fact Sheet, October 2014) *A close read of this short policy report for students is included in the “Just What is Executive Action?” lesson.
- Understanding the Legal Challenges to Executive Action (January 2016)
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