In a huge blow to the immigrant community, the Department of Homeland Security June 15 rescinded a 2014 executive order that provided relief from deportation to the undocumented parents of American citizens.
More than 111,000 undocumented Indian parents of American citizens would have benefited from former President Barack Obama’s Nov. 20, 2014 executive order – known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. Along with relief from deportation, the initiative would have allowed undocumented parents to obtain drivers’ licenses and work authorization. The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 284,000 undocumented Indian nationals currently residing in the U.S. Nationwide, more than 4.3 million undocumented U.S. residents would have benefitted from DAPA.
In the same action, DHS announced that the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – which provides relief from deportation to 700,000 undocumented youth – would remain intact, for now. But on the same day, the Trump Administration announced that the program was still under consideration for rescission.
“There has been no final determination made about the DACA program, which the president has stressed needs to be handled with compassion and with heart,” Jonathan Hoffman, assistant secretary for public affairs at DHS, told The New York Times.
Shortly after Obama issued the DAPA directive in 2014, 26 states immediately sued, saying the order placed an unfair economic burden on them, because of the increased number of drivers’ licenses they would have to issue. The lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court, which issued a split decision June 23, 2016, sending the case back to a lower court, which had previously deemed the directive unconstitutional.
DHS Secretary John Kelly noted in a June 15 memo that the order had never been implemented, because of the litigation against it. “I have considered a number of factors,” said Kelly, citing the preliminary injunction, and the ongoing litigation.
“After consulting with the Attorney General, and in the exercise of my discretion in establishing national immigration enforcement policies and priorities, I hereby rescind the November 20, 2014 memorandum,” wrote Kelly.
The White House did not issue a press statement regarding the new DHS memo. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at a June 19 briefing that the action taken by DHS was due to the pending case.
Immigrant rights organizations decried DHS’s action, calling it “callous.” South Asian Americans Leading Together said in a press statement that it “condemns the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DAPA.”
“Day after day, the Trump administration is perfecting the process of terrorizing immigrants,” said Suman Raghunathan, Indian American executive director of SAALT, in a press statement. “From ‘Muslim Bans’ to calls for border walls to yesterday’s announcement to rescind DAPA, President Trump has made it clear that he is committed to criminalizing immigrants and placing as many barriers as possible between immigrants and their families.”
SAALT noted there are more than half a million undocumented Indians in the U.S., and 40 percent of them could have benefited from the program.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice also denounced the DHS memo. “While the DAPA and expanded DACA memo have long been blocked by a federal court and the decision to rescind the memo does not come as a surprise, we are reminded of what could have been. Those programs would have protected millions of undocumented immigrants who today, along with thousands of other immigrants, are being ripped apart from their families, detained, and deported,” said AAJC in a press statement.
“The administration’s efforts to target and vilify immigrants in myriad ways, from mass deportations to the Muslim ban and the VOICE office, will not be ignored just because it is currently maintaining DACA. We will continue to resist these policies and stand up for justice and the dignity and humanity of all people,” stated the organization.
The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum said in a statement that is was glad the administration understands the importance of DACA. “Many immigrants live every day in fear of deportation and DACA will allow children and young adults to continue to grow, learn, thrive and become vital contributors in their communities,” said Kathy Ko Chin, APIAHF president and CEO.
“Similarly, if it had been enacted, the DAPA program would have helped to keep families intact. Now, half a million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders face the possibility of being separated from their family members as well as unsurmountable barriers to improving their health and well-being. We will continue working to support and uplift those families,” stated Chin.