Despite the fact that our country was founded by immigrants, America has always had a complex and tumultuous relationship with its newcomers. Yes, Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus,” and its famous promise to take in the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” may be engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, but the truth is, over the past few hundred years, we’ve consistently taken measures to ensure that we are doing the exact opposite. These measures have made it very difficult for people who were not born in the USA to become naturalized citizens. From the Act of 1875, which banned convicts and prostitutes from entering the country, to a multitude of federal laws that have prevented various races and nationalities from obtaining American citizenship over the past few hundred years, the messaging of America’s personal brand has always been directly at odds with the actions of our federal government when it has come to taking in people from other countries who want to become naturalized Americans.
Unfortunately, we are still experiencing this phenomenon today. Even though President Obama unveiled his proposal for immigration reform – a proposal that sought to protect the rights and interests of the over 5 million law-abiding immigrants who reside in the US – 14 months ago, we are still awaiting the Supreme Court’s verdict on whether or not it will be put into practice. Thankfully, it was announced this week that the Supreme Court is finally ready to discuss President Obama’s plans for reform, and that the future of his proposal will be decided upon this term. The anticipated timeline of this decision is that it will be reached by summer of 2016, and, if the Court decides to move forward with Obama’s policy, then it will be implemented before he leaves office next year.
One component of the proposal, Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), would allow included residents – most commonly the parents of naturalized citizens who do not have American citizenship themselves – to apply for, and receive, “temporary residency,” which would come with the ability to apply for work authorization and some benefits. The other component would be an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which protects children and teenagers who were born outside of America but raised within its limits.
Since the President’s initial announcement, his proposal has been widely challenged by House Republicans and vocal opponents, who believe that with this suggestion for reform, President Obama has behaved unconstitutionally and with blatant disregard for the governmental checks and balances meant to limit a sitting President’s regulatory power. Still, the Supreme Court’s announcement about bringing this immigration reform proposal to the floor and giving it the due diligence it should receive is good news for the millions of hardworking, honest residents of the US who contribute to America’s economy and well-being but are not being adequately recognized or compensated for their contributions today.