NC Budget and Tax Center

What’s at stake in today’s Supreme Court hearing on immigration – family integrity and a lot of worker income

The US Supreme Court hears oral argument today in the case of Texas v. United States, a challenge to the Obama Administration’s executive order to protect the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents from deportation, commonly known as DAPA.

If upheld, DAPA will allow several million of immigrant parents nationwide to step out of the shadows, which enables them to fully participate in their local economies, and could raise the wages of North Carolina workers — immigrant and US-born alike. As we reported last year, DAPA alone could increase North Carolina workers’ income by over $150 million per year and lift over 5,000 children out of poverty.

DAPA expands on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which protected undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children. By expanding deferred action to include the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents, the Administration continues the American tradition of striving to keep immigrant families whole and united.

Together, DAPA and DACA could raise North Carolina workers’ income by over $3 billion in the next decade. Of course, immigrant families will benefit the most, but deferred action could boost wages for U.S. citizens living in North Carolina by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.

Immigrants pay a steep price for lacking documentation, and when those immigrants are parents, their children share the burden. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that families eligible for the DAPA program could see an average earnings increase of $3,000 per year, or a roughly 10% pay bump from gaining legal status. Given that families with undocumented parents are more prone to live on the economic margins, increasing pay by even a few thousand dollars a year can make an enormous difference in the short- and long-term prospects of the U.S. citizen children living in those homes.

While a 10% pay bump can be transformative, it is particularly stark when considered against the alternative if DAPA is thrown out by the court. One study of households where one parent (generally the father) had been deported showed that family earnings toppled by 40 to 90 percent. With so many of these families already in or near poverty, this can mean the difference between marginal subsistence and abject deprivation.

We still need Congress to overhaul our broken immigration system and establish immigration policies that are based in reality, but the stakes in today’s hearing are still high, and not just for families facing the specter of deportation.

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