Testimony on Proposed Res. No. 928-A: Calling on the United States Supreme Court to issue a decision in United States v. Texas to uphold the implementation of President Obama’s expanded DACA and DAPA programs

Submitted to: NYC Council, Committee on Immigration

Submitted by: Fryda Guedes
Program Coordinator for Immigration & Civic Engagement
Hispanic Federation

January 27, 2016

Good afternoon, my name is Fryda Guedes and I am the Program Coordinator for Immigration and Civic Engagement at the Hispanic Federation (HF). Chairman Menchaca and members of the Council’s Committee on Immigration, on behalf of HF, I thank you for bringing us together today and affording us the opportunity share with the City Council the reasons why New York City must call on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to uphold President Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs.

HF is the premier Latino membership organization in the nation dedicated to promoting the social, political and economic wellbeing of the Hispanic Community. The Federation represents 100 local, community-based organizations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Florida that provide education, health, workforce development and other services to millions of Americans and immigrants annually.

Since its inception in 1990, the Federation has had a legacy of engaging in immigration, evidenced through our work in the Hispanic community and in Washington, DC. On a daily basis, our member agencies teach English, provide health care, promote financial literacy and otherwise ease the integration of immigrants into our society. We support and complement the work of our member agencies by advocating for public policies here in New York and at the federal level.

In November of 2014, after years of Congressional inaction on progressive immigration reform, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration, including expanded DACA and DAPA. These two programs have the potential to change the lives of nearly 5 million immigrants, approximately 200,000 of which live in New York City, providing work authorization and protection from deportation for a period of 3 years on a renewable basis.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was due to begin accepting applications for expanded DACA on February 18, 2015 and for DAPA in May of the same year. However, on February 16, 2015, just days before implementation, a far right-wing federal district court judge temporarily blocked expanded DACA/DAPA from implementation. On that day, our immigrant brothers and sisters took a hard blow, becoming dejected after another major setback. Since then, the pro-immigrant community has been fighting for implementation, for the closest chance at gaining some kind of documentation.

On January 19, 2016, SCOTUS decided to hear Texas vs. United States, giving our community hope once again. As usual, SCOTUS has the fate of millions of hard-working people in their hands, people with heavy ties to the US, either by growing up in the US like any other American, or by having American citizen children.

We know that there are big issues up for decision: whether states had a legal right to sue, or are barred from doing so; whether the policy is illegal because the government did not seek public comment before adopting it; whether expanded DACA/DAPA is “arbitrary” and beyond the president’s powers under federal immigration laws; and whether expanded DACA/DAPA violates the constitutional clause that requires the president to “take care” that the laws passed by Congress are faithfully executed.

However, Hispanic Federation is confident that SCOTUS will uphold expanded DACA/DAPA. There is strong precedent for President Obama’s expanded DACA/DAPA programs. Every US President, since least 1956, has granted temporary immigration relief to one or more groups in need of assistance. It has been established by Supreme Court precedent that it is within the executive branch’s authority to decide how and when to enforce the law and to exercise prosecutorial discretion.

Hispanic Federation is part of a coalition of 224 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups that filed an amicus brief which urged the Supreme Court to review Texas v. U.S. This important brief highlights the benefits of expanded DACA/DAPA to our immigrant brothers and sisters.

One benefit that cannot be overlooked is the economic benefit expanded DACA/DAPA will bring to the US. As previously mentioned, under these two new administrative relief programs, undocumented individuals would have the opportunity to be granted work authorization. In essence, they would have immediate access to better jobs and improved working conditions since they would no longer have to seek jobs that minimize risk of being deported. They would finally have the ability to work in jobs that meet their educational skills and abilities. In turn, this would increase the earning potential for those with expanded DACA/DAPA. One estimate suggests that those with expanded DACA/DAPA “will experience a labor income increase of $7.1 billion dollars.”

Hispanic Federation and its pro-immigrant allies are hopeful that SCOTUS’ decision, which we expect before the term ends in June 2016, will be positive. We applaud and recognize New York City for its wonderful leadership and support of the immigrant community. We are proud that Mayor de Blasio is a part of Cities United for Immigration Action and has signed NYC on to an amicus brief calling for implementation of these crucial programs. We also applaud the City’s ActionNYC program which will provide legal immigration assistance to thousands of New Yorkers. Hispanic Federation will continue to inform our community about expanded DACA/DAPA and provide legal application assistance once implemented.

Our community is ready to act once SCOTUS gives the green light, and will help thousands keep their families together and give them the opportunity to work hard and succeed.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important issue.