No matter how court rules in immigration case, questions remain

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — People who closely follow the Supreme Court know it’s
a waiting game.

There’s the wait to see if
a case makes it to the court, the wait for a seat in the courtroom if it does, and then the wait — in this day and age of instant answers — for a court
decision, which for major cases is typically at the end of the court’s term in
late June.

United States v
Texas, the immigration case argued before the court April 18, is hardly an exception.
The case examines two immigration policies announced by President
Barack Obama in executive actions in 2014: his expansion of a 2012 program known as Deferred Action
for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and the creation of the Deferred Action for
Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA.

The actions, which
would allow more than 4 million undocumented immigrants to temporarily work and
remain in this country, have been challenged by 26 states, including Texas, that
insist the president went too far.

Immigrants and family
members who would be directly impacted by the court’s decision lined up
overnight at the court hoping to get a seat inside and many joined them that morning outside
to cheer, sing and hold placards of support.

Once the 90
minutes of arguments were over, those who will be impacted geared up for the likely two-month
wait for the court to announce its verdict.

But waiting is
something they know all too well.

Yara Hidalgo, who teaches
middle school math and Spanish at Sacred Heart Nativity School in San Jose,
California, certainly knows about it. Her family is from Mexico and her mother
has been waiting for 15 years to get legal status through her sister’s
sponsorship. Her father does not see a realistic path to becoming a U.S.

Hidalgo, who came
to U.S. when she was almost 2 with her parents, has four younger, U.S. citizen
siblings. Through DACA, she was able to get a driver’s license and Social Security
number enabling her to apply for a job. She is currently in a master’s degree
program for teaching in Catholic schools at California’s Santa Clara University.

Both her parents
would likely benefit from DAPA. If either is deported, she would need to care
for her siblings.

Archbishop John C.
Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, wrote about Hidalgo in an April 18 commentary
published on CNN’s website.

“I see
individuals like Yara every day in my archdiocese. I regularly witness the
contributions that they make to our church and our neighborhoods,” he
wrote. He also said he sees their fear and disappointment from the constant
threat of deportation and lost educational and professional opportunities due
to their immigration status.

As families like
the Hidalgos await the court’s decision, they also know there might not be a
clear answer if the court offers a split decision, which many court watchers
think is likely.

A 4-4 vote would
put the president’s immigration policies on hold for the rest of his term and
would be up for renewed discussion during the next presidency and add to a more
heated presidential campaign.

Jeanne Atkinson,
executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC, an
umbrella organization for Catholic legal services providers, said the immigration
community is already reeling from the negative rhetoric from political candidates.

She said she is
“cautiously optimistic,” about how the court will rule in this case.

She was encouraged
by strong points she said were made by U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., defending
the Obama administration, that she didn’t think were counteracted by Texas
Solicitor General Scott Keller representing the states accusing the president
of overstepping his power.

If the court rules
against Obama’s policies, she said it would be demoralizing for many immigrants, but it would not do away with other avenues that can be followed to help them
achieve citizenship. And if the court rules in favor of these policies, there would
also be long road ahead.

Atkinson noted
that even with a victory, there still will be a need for “Congress to step
up” and enact immigration legislation as these policies won’t solve every

Sitting in the second
row in the courtroom April 18, she said she felt she was “watching history
being made.”

Looking around to see families
and walking by groups outside reminded her of why people care about this issue
so much.

“A positive
outcome will benefit children and families and make our communities safe,”
she said. “We can’t lose sight of that.”

Archbishop Wester,
a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee, had a
similar message: “As we hear commentary on U.S. v. Texas, we must set
aside partisan opinions. Remember: Human lives will be affected by the ruling.
We must recognize that regardless of their immigration status, those who would
benefit from DAPA and expanded DACA are our brothers and sisters, our neighbors
and often our friends.”

The archbishop noted
these policies aren’t perfect and would not “provide a long-term fix for
our broken immigration system,” but he still said they would at “temporarily
ensure that hard-working, law-abiding immigrant families can stay together in
anticipation of the time when our legislators will enact just and humane
immigration reform.”

Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, voiced a similar view in the Feb. 16 Sacramento Bee daily

He said the case
before the Supreme Court is “not an amnesty program, nor does it fix the
broken immigration system. Any significant reform will have to wait for a more
reasoned conversation in Congress.”

For now, he said,
the Obama administration was attempting to bring some security to many people living
in ambiguity in a way that would allow “federal and local law enforcement
to effectively allocate resources to protect our neighborhoods, not divide

The bishop also
hoped the justices who were present during Pope Francis’ address to Congress
last September would remember the pope’s description of Moses, who viewed the
law as a force for unity.

laws must serve people and the common good. While we wait for Congress to
assume this duty with regards to comprehensive and humane immigration reform,
the court can call on the wisdom of Moses to bring a measure of unity and
security to immigrant families as well as the nation,” he said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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