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.

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Commentary

Our nation’s “stupid, stupid, stupid” immigration policy

In case you missed it, there was a remarkable exchange in a U.S. Senate hearing yesterday between Senator Patrick Leahy and Attorney General Loretta Lynch about the unbelievably absurd statement of federal immigration judge Jack Weil that three and four year-old children can be made to understand immigration law and represent themselves competently in deportation hearings. As the New York Times reports:

“I’ve never heard such a stupid, stupid, stupid thing,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, on Wednesday. Mr. Leahy made it clear what he thought of that…

He hammered on the word “stupid” as if with a baseball bat.

Ms. Lynch was mild in reply. “I share with you your puzzlement over those statements,” she said. She added, “We do not take the view that children can represent themselves.”

She also noted that the Department of Justice isn’t required do anything about the problem. “The current law does not provide the right to counsel,” she said.

And here’s the Times editorial board in an excellent, if gentler, piece from Tuesday:

In this time of political absurdity, can it be any surprise that a federal immigration judge insists that toddlers can represent themselves in immigration court?

The judge, Jack Weil, did not appear to be joking when, in a deposition in a federal lawsuit, he told a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union: “I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it….” Read more

News

Washington Post report details how immigration impacts public schools

3838663.8ee69d5c.560_0Here’s a fascinating piece in Sunday’s Washington Post that details the ongoing struggle for U.S. public schools to handle the surge in immigrant students. 

Of course, public schools may not refuse any student, regardless of citizenship, but the surge has resulted in middling investments in public schools, despite the increasing workload, many public education advocates would argue.

From Sunday’s Post:

Many of the new arrivals don’t speak much English and are behind academically. They often come with scars, having fled desperate poverty or violence or both. Many endured difficult journeys, sometimes leaving their families behind or rejoining parents in the United States after years of separation. And U.S. schools, already strapped for resources, are trying to provide special services, including ­English-language instruction and mental-health care.

There were more than 630,000 immigrant students nationwide in the 2013-2014 school year, according to the latest federal education data available, which defines immigrants as children born outside the country and enrolled in U.S. schools for less than three years. That figure has grown since immigration across the southern border surged two years ago: Between Oct. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2015, federal officials released more than 95,000 unaccompanied minors into U.S. communities, virtually all of them entitled to enroll in public school.

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News

SCOTUS to decide merits of Obama immigration plan

May_Day_Immigration_March_LA37The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to review President Obama’s overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, putting to rest a challenge to its constitutionality launched more than a year ago by 26 states.

As described by Adam Liptak of the New York Times, the president’s plan would “allow millions of immigrants who are the parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to apply for a program sparing them from deportation and providing them work permits. The program was called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.”

In February, a federal district court judge in Texas  blocked implementation of the plan pending resolution of the states’ challenge, and a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans later affirmed that injunction.

Adds Liptak:

If the Supreme Court upholds Mr. Obama’s actions, the White House has vowed to move quickly to set up the DAPA program and begin enrolling immigrants before his successor takes over early next year. Democratic presidential candidates have said they will continue the program, but most of the Republicans in the race have vowed to dismantle it and redouble immigration enforcement.

The high court’s order taking the case for review, entered in U.S. v. Texas, is here.

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Commentary

Immigrants become the punching bag of broken immigration system

If we thought that 2015 was a bad year for immigrants living in North Carolina and elsewhere in the U.S., the start of 2016 has not fared much better. Those seeking refuge from persecution, arguably the most vulnerable types of people coming to our country, continue to be scapegoated as threats of terrorism by local elected officials; most recently Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews. Additionally, the Obama administration announced a series of raids to start the new year targeting Central American families who entered the U.S. during the recent surge escaping dire violence in their home countries.

The raids, whether targeted or not, instill fear in the minds of immigrants living in the U.S. even if documented. There are thousands of immigrants in NC who live in mixed-status families or who have U.S. citizen children and spouses. Living with the constant fear of losing a parent, a spouse, or a loved one is extraordinarily difficult. Children have to attend school with the looming concern that when they get home, their parent may be gone.

Somehow, the political discourse inappropriately distinguished the deservingness of Syrian refugees from those coming from Central America. On one hand, the administration announced that the U.S. would take 10,000 Syrian refugees due to the dangerous conditions in Syria despite the protest of state elected officials, including Gov. Pat McCrory . Yet, the recent raids are reportedly targeting individuals who sought to escape grave danger in Central America. There is a reason why San Pedro Sula in Honduras, for example, has been named the murder capital of the world. This dichotomy is inexplicable and should lead policy makers to a serious discussion on how our country treats refugees. While the international community and these countries learn how to address their spiraling violence, the U.S. needs a system that affords due process and fair shot at asylum for those who seek refuge within our borders.

The concerns voiced by people like Sheriff Andrews are both unnecessary and unfounded. Yet, as wrong as these statements are, they have guided the political discourse both at the local and federal level in a pivotal electoral campaign season. We cannot let individuals escaping deadly violence and grave threats in their home countries become a proverbial political punching bag. Instead, we, as a country, must understand that the parents and children the Obama administration is deporting are the embodiment of the huddled masses yearning to be free.