In November 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that would provide temporary protection from deportation and work permits for 5 million to 6 million unauthorized immigrants.
On Monday, the Supreme Court holds oral arguments on U.S. v. Texas, a legal challenge by the state of Texas and other states. Debate on the case has focused on the limits of presidential power and states’ rights.
But ultimately, it is about families who risk being torn apart: husband from wife, mother from child and sister from brother. This matters because families provide the foundation of our current immigration system and are the bedrock of our society, our communities and our institutions.
The executive actions would expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to a larger number of people who came to the U.S. as minors and who lack legal immigration status. They also would create a parallel program for the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents, known as DAPA.
Families who stand to benefit include the Hidalgos of San Jose, California. Yara Hidalgo, 25, is a student teacher at Sacred Heart Nativity Schools, a job made possible when she qualified for an earlier, more limited version of DACA.
It gave her a work permit and the Social Security number needed for a background check. A graduate of Loyola Marymount University (on scholarship), Yara is now in Santa Clara University’s master’s program for teaching in Catholic schools.
DACA also made it possible for Yara to get a driver’s license and help ease the burdens on her family.
Yara came to the U.S. from Nayarit, Mexico, with her parents when she was not quite 2. She has four younger, U.S. citizen siblings. Her mother has been waiting for 15 years — with no end in sight — to get legal status through her sister’s sponsorship.
Yara’s dad is also undocumented, with no realistic path to legalize. Both parents probably could benefit from DAPA. Meanwhile, if either of her parents are deported, it would fall to Yara to care for her siblings, as their parents strongly believe in the significant advantages of raising their family in this country.
I see individuals like Yara every day in my archdiocese. I regularly witness the contributions that they make to our church and our neighborhoods. I watch families like the Hidalgos grow in love and respect for God, their country and their communities, but I also witness their fear and disappointment.
Fear comes from the constant threat of separation because of deportation. Disappointment is from the lost educational and professional opportunities because their immigration status blocks them from achieving their God-given potential and denies them the opportunity to improve their families’ lives.
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 presidential actions now before the Supreme Court are not perfect. They do not provide a long-term fix for our broken immigration system. Instead, they would 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.
Until we see those efforts from Washington, we must not fall prey to the partisan, political rhetoric that dominates debates on immigration. Instead, let us focus on the individual faces behind the process. Yara Hidalgo’s future, that of her siblings and parents, and millions of other families, is what is truly at stake.