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The hope to keep immigrant families together lies on SCOTUS decision

By Marian Wright Edelman/President, Children's Defense Fund via George Curry Media 
On May 10, 2016

"Baldo came to the United States from Michoacán, Mexico, in 1988, when he was 17 years old. He lives in Pasadena, California, with his wife and their two U.S. citizen daughters, ages nine and 13. While in the United States, he trained as an electrician and, for nearly 20 years, worked for the same company installing electrical wiring and residential security systems. He lost his job in March 2014, when his employer discovered that Baldo was undocumented. Baldo's employer told Baldo that he hated to lose him and that he would like to rehire him as soon as Baldo obtained work authorization. Baldo's current work as an independent contractor has created financial difficulties for him and his family, as he can no longer rely on a weekly paycheck and cannot count on getting work every week. The lack of a reliable income makes it difficult for Baldo to plan for his family's financial future."

-Brief filed by immigrants' rights, civil rights and labor groups in U.S. v. Texas

The future of Baldo and his family, and millions of other immigrant families, are on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision in U.S. v. Texas, expected in June. Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit in February 2015 to block President Obama's November 2014 executive action to help keep immigrant families together.

The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiatives would help parents and young adults remain in the U.S. temporarily to work, further their education, and support their families. Baldo's story is documented in one of the 19 friend-of-the-court briefs filed on behalf of more than 1,000 organizations and individuals supporting the president's executive actions.

DAPA would allow immigrant parents like Baldo with citizen children to seek protection from deportation, get a work permit, and keep their families together. The brief shares more about his story: "Baldo's financial difficulties are compounded by his fear of being forced to return to Michoacán, where he has not lived in nearly 30 years. He has heard from family members about kidnappings and other drug cartel-related violence, and would not feel safe returning to Michoacán. Given the risk of harm, he would not want to take his daughters there, but he also would not want to be separated from them."

An estimated 16 million people in the United States have mixed-status families like Baldo's. One in five undocumented immigrant adults has a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse and about 3.8 million undocumented immigrants have children who are U.S. citizens.

By expanding DACA, the Department of Homeland Security would offer deferred action to more young people brought to the United States as children before their 16th birthday. They must have continuously lived in the U.S. since January 2010 and every day since August 15, 2012, have a high school diploma or equivalent, or be in school. They would have access to important educational opportunities, internships and career and vocation training and have better chances of new jobs and increased earnings. The state of Texas' injunction prevents an estimated 290,000 people brought to the country as children from applying for DACA. The friend-of-the-court brief of educators and children's advocates which CDF joined cites two young women who benefited from the initial DACA initiative.

Tonya had dropped out of high school in Arizona, discouraged after her parents returned to Mexico, but DACA gave her an incentive to complete her GED and enroll in a medical assistance training program. With DACA support and the needed identification, college student Jessica was able to volunteer at a hospital, apply for an internship at a medical school, and take the MCAT. With expanded DACA in place more young people like these will be able to pursue education and jobs.

Qualifying for these temporary, renewable deportation deferrals requires people to meet a variety of requirements and pass a criminal background check. In recognition of the benefits for children and families and the economic future of our country, there is very broad support for DAPA and expanded DACA. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia; 116 cities and counties, along with scores of police, policymaker membership organizations and civil rights organizations have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court.

I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will seize this opportunity to move our nation forward, prevent family break up, end the stressful hardships countless families face, and give hope and stability to millions of families, children, and young adults who would benefit from the president's executive actions.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children's Defense Fund. For more information go to  www.childrensdefense.org

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