Texas v. United States and Republicans v. Immigrants
Last November, President Obama announced Immigration Accountability Executive Action. IAEA expanded eligibility for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) and created a new program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The programs do not grant immigration status or relief, but defer the removal of undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria. If implemented, these policies would help over 4 million people living in the United States.
Notorious Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose county settled a civil rights lawsuit against him this year, filed his own lawsuit challenging Obama's executive action. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, finding that Sheriff Arpaio did not have standing to bring the case.
The state of Texas also sued over the executive action, and in February, United States District Judge Andrew Hanen issued an injunction against DAPA and expanded DACA. Judge Hanen, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, found that Obama violated the Administrative Procedures Act and invaded Congress's authority to regulate immigration when he issued the executive order. The Obama administration requested that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issue a stay of the injunction while it appealed the case, but the stay request was denied in May, and the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court's injunction in November.
Less than two weeks after the Fifth Circuit decision, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to decide the case. The Court also denied Texas's request for an extension of time after the administration expressed concerns that the case would not be decided before the end of the court's term in June. Today, Texas filed a brief asking the Supreme Court not to hear the case, which would leave the appeals court decision in effect. A group of 84 cities and counties called Cities United for Immigration Action filed a brief asking the court to take the case and allow Obama's executive action to go forward. Congressional Democrats also asked the Court to hear the case, as did the attorneys general of Washington, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
The Supreme Court is expected to decide in January whether to hear the United States's appeal.
"Some, I assume, are good people."
This summer, celebrity Donald Trump announced another run for president of the United States. In that speech, he made these offensive comments about immigrants from Mexico:
They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Trump's platform on immigration includes building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border and "making" Mexico pay for the wall. Trump has also suggested creating an ICE "deportation force" to forcibly remove 11 million undocumented immigrants from the United States.
Trump is not alone among the Republican presidential candidates. Both Trump and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker proposed ending jus soli, also known as "birthright citizenship," and Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa introduced the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2015 in Congress. But the U.S. Supreme Court held over 100 years ago that birthright citizenship is required by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, meaning a constitutional amendment would be required to change the law.
While maintaining his support for birthright citizenship, former Florida governor Jeb Bush used the term "anchor babies" to describe children born in the United States to undocumented immigrant parents. The term is not only offensive, but also misleading: a child cannot petition for his parents to immigrate to the United States until he is 21 years old.
The fight for sanctuary cities
Unlike plans to build a 2,000 mile wall, arrest 11 million people, or amend the constitution, proposals to end "sanctuary cities" have come close to becoming law. This July, Kathryn Steinle was shot in killed in San Francisco, allegedly by Juan Lopez Sanchez, who had previously been deported. Mr. Lopez Sanchez was transferred from federal criminal custody to San Francisco because of an old warrant, but was released because the case was not prosecuted. Federal authorities knew that Mr. Lopez Sanchez had been transferred to San Francisco, and knew that San Francisco was a sanctuary city, but did not seek a warrant to hold Mr. Lopez Sanchez at the end of his state case. Yet federal authorities blamed local law enforcement for his release.
In the aftermath of the incident, the House of Representatives passed a bill denying federal funding to cities that refuse to honor immigration detainers. Senate Democrats blocked that bill. A detainer is not a warrant, detainers have been used to hold U.S. citizens, and courts have held that cities cannot constitutionally hold people without probable cause.
In October, North Carolina passed a bill banning cities from adopting policies of non-cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the law also prohibits local law enforcement from accepting foreign countries' identification documents. Similar bills have been proposed in Wisconsin and Texas.
The sanctuary city movement started in Los Angeles in the 1980s, when local law enforcement found that residents would not talk to police for fear of deportation. Critics of these recent proposals warn that sanctuary city policies make the community safer by encouraging trust in local law enforcement. The fear-mongers have lost more than they have won, but immigrant advocates remain vigilant.
Fears v. facts
Amid all of this anti-immigrant rhetoric, largely directed at Mexicans, we learned that there has been a net migration from the U.S. to Mexico in the last five years. The Mexican migration to the United States that started in 1965 was the largest wave of immigration in U.S. history, but in recent years, immigration from Mexico has decreased while immigration from India and China has increased.
In 2016, the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case now known as United States v. Texas, immigration will almost certainly be a central issue in the presidential election, and we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of conservative hero Ronald Reagan's Immigration Reform and Control Act, most famous for its immigration amnesty program. It remains to be seen whether hope or fear will prevail in the immigration debate, but it seems certain that the debate will be one of the top stories of 2016 as well.