The Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
By Ray O’Hanlon
It will be another Christmas in the shadows for thousands of undocumented Irish, this just over a year after many were given an early seasonal gift of hope after President Obama moved to suspend deportations of those illegal and undocumented who are parents of U.S. citizen children.
Indeed, Christmas 2015 will be remembered by the undocumented and their advocates as one of ill will trumping good will.
Two years ago there was yet lingering hope after the U.S. Senate voted for a reform bill that included a path to legality for the undocumented though by the end of that year it was becoming starkly evident that the House of Representatives wasn’t inclined to come up with a matching bill.
Exactly a year ago this week the Echo reported in a front page story headed “A Break For Some,” that, after months of delay, President Obama had moved to ease the burdens of millions of illegal and undocumented immigrants, many thousands of Irish Among them, this by implementing a “delayed action” policy aimed primarily at illegal and undocumented immigrants with citizen children.
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One initial hope following the president’s so-called “DACA” initiative was that qualifying undocumented Irish might get a chance to return to Ireland to visit family and friends without facing the three and ten year bars on a return to the U.S.
But as was the case with the 2013 Senate bill, the president’s action immediately faced a wall of opposition, not just in Congress this time, but also from lobby groups and through the courts.
An initial hold was placed on the presidential action by a Texas court and this decision was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans in a 2-1 decision.
The 5th Circuit majority wrote that Texas has a legal right to challenge the federal government’s actions on immigration because states could face millions of dollars in costs if the immigrants obtained drivers licenses and other benefits. Texas was among the first states to file suit and has taken the lead among 26 trying to block the action, the newspaper Roll Call reported.
The 5th Circuit decision also rejected the administration’s argument that the injunction should not apply nationwide, in part because beneficiaries would be free to travel between states that were, or were not, under the injunction, the report stated.
Now the Obama administration has filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the lower court’s injunction against implementation of the president’s executive actions.
The Justice Department petition that argues that the 5th Circuit committed “manifold and significant errors” when it allowed a stopping of “a federal immigration enforcement policy of great national importance.”
The Supreme Court has yet to indicate whether or not it will take up the case but if it does, its consideration will take place against a backdrop of a presidential election campaign in which immigration has become an especially hot button issue.
Stated the Justice Department in reference to the lower court ruling: “If left undisturbed, that ruling will allow states to frustrate the federal government’s enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.
“It will force millions of people who are not removal priorities under criteria the court conceded are valid, and who are parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families.
“And it will place a cloud over the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as children, have lived here for years, and been accorded deferred action under the 2012 DACA policy, which respondents have never challenged,” added the department in a reference to an earlier initiative aimed at individuals commonly referred to a “Dreamers.”
Concluded the Roll Call report: “If the Supreme Court doesn’t hear the case this term, it would likely mean Obama would leave office without being able to implement his actions.
“Even if the Supreme Court accepts the case and decides by the end of June, Obama’s executive actions might be in effect only until the next president takes office in January 2017. Many undocumented immigrants might be leery of identifying as such with the government to get benefits that might soon be taken away.”