According to Philadelphia’s Latino immigrant activists, Barack Obama’s primary legacy from his eight years in office can be summed up in three words: Deporter in chief.
Activists and organizers today gathered at Juntos in South Philly to comment on today’s split ruling from the Supreme Court on President Obama’s immigration policy.
The court actually ruled on a program Obama and immigration activists support today. In a one-sentence decision — “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court” — the court announced it had split, 4-all, which means the Obama administration will not be able to implement its immigration plans before the end of his term.
Today’s ruling stems from a policy Obama attempted to implement in 2014. Then, Obama announced several executive orders that would prevent up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from being deported. There are an estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States who entered illegally. Obama’s executive orders would concentrate on deporting criminals and terrorists. Those who have been here five years and have children who are citizens or legal residents would be allowed to apply for a three-year deferral of any attempt at deportation.
Texas and 25 other states sued to prevent the program’s implementation. The Obama administration asked a judge to allow the programs to begin while the suit made its way through the courts. The 4-all tie means the program cannot begin until the lawsuit is over; therefore, Obama won’t be able to implement his program.
“For more than two decades now our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken,” Obama said today. “And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.”
But the activists speaking at Juntos (which means “together” in Spanish) today decried both the ruling and Obama. Speaking in both English and Spanish, those assembled at the immigrant-rights organization said today’s ruling made them angry.
“I’m still processing a lot,” said an emotional Maria Sotomayor, an organizer with the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. “But we’re not going to stop fighting until we can keep our families together. … I wanted to send a message to my community that we’re united. You don’t need to be scared, you don’t need to be sad.”
It was Miguel Andrade, an activist with Not One More, who first spoke about Obama. “Obama’s legacy now will always be remembered as deporter in chief,” he said. “He did pass DACA, but deported over 2 million people.” DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program the Obama administration started in June 2012. It allows certain immigrants who entered the country illegally before their 16th birthday to get a renewable work permit and exemption from deportation. That 2 million total Andrade used is a bit out of date: Newer numbers put the total at 2.5 million, the most of any president.
“I think I speak for everybody here that enough is enough,” Andrade said. “Even today Obama went on record basically passing this on to the next administration, that is a cowardly move because he has the power to end deportation.”
Andrade and Erica Guadalupe Nuñez, a Juntos board member, said there would be action in Philadelphia (as well as nationwide) next week. They’re calling for a halt to deportations and the end to immigrant detention centers.
“Our community is being used as a legal football,” said immigration lawyer Karenina Wolff. “We’re not pawns, were people.”
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