Friday, April 15, 2016

What the U.S. Supreme Court Case on Executive Action Means for Schools

On April 18, the eight sitting justices on the U.S. Supreme Court will consider United States v. Texas, a politically charged lawsuit about the legality of some of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The initiatives in dispute—expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)—have been on hold since a district court in Texas issued a preliminary injunction (a temporary block) in the case in February 2015. A Supreme Court decision in favor of the United States could clear the way for the initiatives to go forward as early as June 2016. A decision against the United States, or a 4-4 split decision would affirm the lower court’s ruling and uphold the block on expanded DACA and DAPA.

Both DACA and DAPA are deferred action initiatives. To qualify to stay in this country, individuals must have lived here five years, register with the government, pay taxes, and pass a criminal background check. A grant of deferred action does not confer any type of lawful immigration status, enforceable legal rights, or an ability to remain permanently in the United States. Nonetheless, it allows families to remain together and to apply for work authorization.

Expanded DACA and DAPA have the potential to affect a substantial number of American families.  The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that 3.7 million undocumented immigrants could qualify for protection from removal under the two initiatives.  Additionally, 86 percent of children of undocumented parents, or 4.4 million, have parents that would qualify for DAPA. Many of these children are U.S. citizens.

There are also, however, educational and socio-emotional health benefits. For example, as of December 31, 2015, over 700,000 young people have received the 2012 version of DACA (not challenged in the lawsuit), broadening their educational opportunities. Many recipients now have access to public universities, trade schools, and additional scholarship opportunities.

Many educational groups and advocates, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have stated in a friend-of-the-court brief filed on the Obama administration’s side, that "DACA is unique among immigration policies because it makes educational attainment a condition for eligibility." They highlight that in order to be eligible for DACA, an individual must be “either in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Additionally, they note that the DAPA program would extend significant stress relief to families with school-aged children. Not surprisingly, removing the threat of a parent’s deportation and the ability to improve economic prospects via work authorization may mitigate some of the statistically profound disadvantages facing children with at least one undocumented parent.

Executive Action Resources
  • Defending DAPA and Expanded DACA Before the Supreme Court (American Immigration Council) – This guide provides brief answers to common questions about United States v. Texas, including what is at stake in the case, how the litigation began, what the contested issues are, and the impact the case may have on our country. 

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