The American people are frustrated by the inability of Congress to take action and tackle the challenging, yet not insurmountable, task of reforming our immigration system and bringing it into the new century. That shouldn’t be too much to ask now that we are already well over a decade into the 21st century.
The Administration attempted to alleviate this frustration in November of 2014 by announcing plans to keep families together, ensure our communities are secure, and enable employers to keep the talent they need to remain competitive. Though many of these actions are still pending implementation by DHS, the litigation brought by Texas and other states has delayed implementation of President Obama’s signature initiative which would grant a reprieve from deportation to many undocumented individuals who have extensive, long-term ties to the United States.
The litigation challenging the proposed DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and expansion of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) programs has left millions of American families stuck in limbo, not knowing if they are safe from deportation or whether the next knock on the door would break them apart. Thankfully the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case in its current term, and I, for one, am confident that the Court will uphold the legality and constitutionality of both DAPA and DACA.
In the meantime, millions live in fear. Clients keep their immigration attorneys’ phone numbers in their wallets. They think twice about conducting even the most mundane tasks such as grocery shopping and picking their children up from school. In light of recent news reports of immigration raids, mothers lock their doors, fathers fear leaving home, and children have nightmares, afraid of waking up and finding mom and dad gone. In Maryland, schools report attendance has dropped since the raids.
Presidential campaign season is already in full gear and candidates from both sides are taking a stab at immigration to advance their electability. But Senators and Representatives have a real tangible opportunity to begin working on concrete solutions to address the challenges of a broken immigration system. With the new calendar year should come a renewed energy and a desire to invite aspiring Americans living in our communities to come out of the shadows, proudly register with our government, and continue to contribute to our society and our economy. Congress has no excuse for delaying the hopes of family members looking to be reunited after long periods of separation based on arbitrary and archaic quotas. Leaders have an opportunity to bolster our nation’s global competitiveness by allowing employers to keep and hire talent to continue to innovate and advance.
As 2016 begins, I hope that this year will be marked more by acts that buildup rather than tear down, and by a spirit of inclusion rather than exclusion. Let 2016 be the year we commit to reforming our immigration laws in a rational and compassionate manner. Let this be a year when we all move forward.
Written by Annaluisa Padilla, AILA First Vice President