Support by Texas county judges for DAPA, DACA should be echoed

USE THIS PHOTO AS LEDE ON A1 WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 18: Pro-immigration protesters rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, March 18, 2016 in Washington, DC. Next month the high court will hear arguments in U.S. v Texas, a case that will decide whether to grant deferred action status to certain undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children who are American citizens. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Pro-immigration protesters rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, March 18, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

On Monday, as President Barack Obama approaches the end of his second term, Supreme Court justices heard another round of  United States v. Texas, a case that began after Obama issued executive orders in 2014 that would allow millions of undocumented workers to avoid deportation.

The president’s efforts would provide a modicum of immigration reform by protecting from deportation as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants.  Local government and business leaders across the country support the questioned immigration programs — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which targets the nearly 4.3 million undocumented parents of citizens and lawful residents, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an initiative aimed at non-citizens who came to the country as children. Among those who back the programs are county judges from Austin, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio, who recently released a joint statement of support.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court isn’t where this matter will and should be settled.

Immigration policy is the responsibility of  Congress, even if it refuses to accept that responsibility. Then, there’s the matter, as was pointed out by the Editorial Board earlier this week, of a court ruling acting only as a temporary band-aid.

“A decision in June would arrive a few weeks before Republicans and Democrats hold their nominating conventions in mid- and late July. A 4-4 tie — a possibility after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February — would let stand the lower court rulings and would block Obama’s programs from taking effect.

Even a favorable ruling may not matter much, not with Obama’s time in office winding down. His policy will live or die with the next president.”

It’s an absolute shame. While our nation’s leaders squabble over legal and technical points, millions of families who have made this country home will continue to be threatened of being separated by deportation.

The ideal scenario would be to have the Obama Administration work with Congress for progressive reform that benefits the millions of immigrants who are already positively contributing to this country. That, unfortunately, is not likely to happen anytime soon.

What’s needed is aside from political courage from Congress is unwavering support and pressure from leaders across the country; much like the support several county judges expressed in a joint statement earlier this week.

The following is the statement:

Austin, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio Say “Yes” to DAPA and DACA

As the County Judges of Bexar, Dallas, El Paso and Travis Counties, we represent 6.5 million Texans.  The County Judge is the highest elected county official in Texas, and we are responsible for the health, public safety, economic development, and vitality of our respective counties.  We speak with one voice when we all say that the President’s immigration executive action,Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will benefit our counties’ public safety, economic growth, and humanitarian interests.   A court order has so far blocked DAPA and DACA from being implemented, but on Monday, April 18, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the case.

DAPA would provide the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents with a temporary respite from deportation and permission to work.  Expanded DACA would allow immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to also live and work temporarily in the U.S.  These policies would allow long-term, law-abiding residents to step out of the shadows, live their lives, and contribute to their communities without fear of being separated from their U.S. citizen family members.

Our counties prosper when immigrant residents are integrated into urban life.  Studies estimate that state and local revenues in Texas would increase by $59 million per year with DAPA and expanded DACA. Other research estimates that family income would see a 10% raise when one parent receives DAPA.  Our experience demonstrates that community safety is enhanced when residents are not afraid to seek help from police. DAPA and DACA would empower our residents to cooperate with law enforcement.  DAPA and DACA would also promote stable families and prevent the social, economic, and psychological harm U.S. citizen children face when their parents are deported.

Of course these programs are controversial, but we believe it’s in the best interest of our communities for DAPA and expanded DACA to be implemented until Congress chooses to act.  We hope the Supreme Court will weigh these concerns carefully as it analyzes the President’s immigration action.

Judge Nelson Wolff, Bexar County
Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County
Judge Veronica Escobar, El Paso County
Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County