When one is caught up in the details of day-to-day skirmishes, it is not uncommon to lose sight of the greater battle being waged.
After bathing in the warm glow of political delusion, following the president’s announcement last fall that he was setting the stage for immigrants to come out from the shadows, many advocates act astonished by the recent news that his executive orders are likely to be derailed by a federal court ruling.
In reality, this development is no surprise.
Obama Immigration Orders Likely Headed For New Legal Setback
Seung Min Kim, Politico, July 10, 2015
President Barack Obama appears likely to lose – again – in the protracted legal fight over his executive actions on immigration.
Two of the three appeals court judges who heard oral arguments Friday on the Obama administration’s immigration programs were skeptical about the legal merits of the directive, which could halt deportations for more than 4 million immigrants here illegally who have family ties in the United States.
What’s at stake?
Generally, opponents and supporters of immigration reform point to the 3.5 million parents who would be eligible for relief under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program, as well as to the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants similar benefits to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children.
Actually, there’s possibly more – possibly far more – at risk than meets the eye.
Stopgap Measures: One Step Forward Or One Step Backward?
Unlike many of my colleagues, I am not a fan of dead-end measures.
As a family visa lawyer, I am less concerned about the outcome of the current Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the president’s orders for temporary benefits than I am about the potential for the immigration reform movement to get off track in the chase for real change.
Moreover, I do not believe these programs are an automatic step towards immigrant-friendly reform. They have an equal, if not greater, potential to cause as much harm and wreak as much havoc upon immigrant families as to help them in their quest to live as an intact family unit.
Being a pro-immigrant rights advocate, my position borders on treason to many immigration activists.
Yet, it’s a position I have consistently expressed during Obama’s second term. Since he again failed to take a leadership role on comprehensive reform, it was painfully obvious immigrants would be used once more as election fodder.
I have not believed any of the stop-gap measures enacted were sincere and wholehearted efforts by the administration on behalf of immigrant families. More could have been done.
More should have been done.
Despite the political hoopla over the “new” family unity version of I-601 inadmissibility waivers, and the outpouring of praise for the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and now the Deferred Action For Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs, I have worried about the lack of back-up plans if and when the temporary measures are terminated.
Paraphrasing the lyrics from Shealeigh’s “What Can I Say?” helps explain this view:
You acted like you care
But you don’t stop pretending
Cause you’re hurting me
My first impressions disappear
Your tongue-tied words so insincere
You always do as you please
And this situation we’re repeating
Overrated is what you made it
You’re all done and now you’re out of time
A Bump In The Road To Immigration Reform, Not A Detour
The latest legal – and political – battle being waged at the Fifth Circuit is proof positive that the roof of flimsy makeshift legal protections can spring leaks at any time.
That’s long been my primary short term fear about President Obama’s temporary programs.
As a Riverside immigration lawyer, there is another, more signigicant yet less discernible concern I have about the impact of fighting for transitory benefit vouchers. Under this perspective, a loss now may be in the best interests of immigrants tomorrow.
In other words, I view the current Fifth Circuit Appeals Court battle as a bump in the road, not a permanent detour.
Within a few years, the issues of DACA, DAPA, and I-601 waivers, may be moot if – and that’s a BIG IF – we do not allow ourselves to be continually misguided into expending all our energies on anything less than real reform.
There are often silver linings in defeat.
The derailing of Obama’s executive orders may well sow the seeds of more meaningful changes in the future.
Ironically, the derailing of Obama’s executive orders may put reformers back on track.
This means a conscious return to the core impetus for political activism: campaigning for compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform, and supporting candidates for their commitment to permanent, not temporary, benefits.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics