Many immigrants brought to the country as children are finding no relief from Congress, but court decisions are helping some maintain deportation protection.
The Senate failed to pass several immigration measures February 15, including a bipartisan bill that President Donald Trump threatened to veto. A proposal modeled after the president’s own immigration priorities gained the least support of the immigration measures considered, failing 39-60.
Nevada’s senators split along party lines on the Trump-approved immigration bill. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., released a statement blaming the gridlock on Democrats, while Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said Trump is trying to force a $25 billion border wall on the country.
Trump put pressure on Congress to come up with immigration reform when he announced he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which provides deportation protection for certain young immigrants. He contends the program created by former President Barack Obama is illegal. Meanwhile, two court decisions that have reopened renewal applications for the program say DACA is legal and, therefore, Trump’s reason for ending it is arbitrary.
“The fact that it looks likely that Congress will fail to solve the DACA program means that it’s even more important for people with DACA to try to keep their permits valid as long as possible,” said UNLV Immigration Law Center Director Michael Kagan.
He said some who support ending DACA contend that Obama overstepped his authority and that a legal challenge against it would be successful. Kagan said this theory stems from a court case regarding a similar program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which was blocked through a Texas case.
“It’s a very confusing situation in which different courts have disagreed with each other,” Kagan said. “That’s not surprising, because there’s a lot of good-faith legal debate about whether DACA is legal.”
Kagan said the Trump administration’s narrow explanation for ending DACA is part of the issue.
“Both recent judges have agreed that if Donald Trump wants to end DACA, he can,” Kagan said. “He just has to state a clear reason for doing it. He could say, ‘I don’t like DACA as a policy,’ and there would be very little argument that he could not end the program that way.”
The Supreme Court bucked the government’s request that it hear the case in what appeared to be an effort to skirt the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which Trump has criticized in the past, Kagan said.
“The 9th Circuit’s the largest circuit in the country and it’s a very complicated judiciary overall,” Kagan said. “It can give liberal decisions; it has also given some conservative decisions on immigration cases, but there’s a widespread perception—certainly that Donald Trump the president himself has promoted—that it’s a liberal circuit.”
The 9th Circuit has pushed back against Trump’s travel bans as well as a federal anti-sanctuary cities policy. An anti-sanctuary city measure was among the immigration bills that failed in the Senate, again splitting Cortez Masto and Heller along party lines. Clark County was removed from the government’s list of jurisdictions at risk of losing certain federal funding for not complying with immigration enforcement. A court rejected an anti-sanctuary city ballot measure proposed in Nevada.
State Senate Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, the honorary Prevent Sanctuary Cities PAC chairman, said at the time that voters have a right to prevent lawmakers from passing pro-sanctuary city bills like one proposed in the 2017 session.
Kagan said he encourages people to renew their DACA status if it has either expired or is expiring this year. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is not accepting new applications or filings from individuals whose DACA benefits were terminated. People can file for renewal if their DACA permits expired on or after September 5, 2017, when the Trump administration rescinded the program.
“It’s only to your advantage to try to do that in most cases,” he said. “This is an opportunity. We don’t know how long this opportunity will last.”
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.