Ivonne Salazar wants to get a better-paying job so she can help her 18-year-old daughter, who’ll be attending Arizona State University this fall, pay for college expenses. But Salazar’s job opportunities are limited because she is undocumented. She has been living in Arizona without legal status for 23 years.
The Mexico native and single mother of three U.S. citizens works cleaning a hospital.
She would qualify for a work permit and protection from deportation under a program that President Barack Obama announced in November 2014 as part of his executive actions on immigration. The program would benefit undocumented parents, like Salazar, who have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
“This is the only hope I have to be able to find a better job so I can help my daughter through college,” she said.
But the courts blocked the program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, after Arizona and 25 other states filed a lawsuit. The states challenge the president’s authority to grant deportation relief and work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard 90 minutes of oral arguments in the case. The Obama administration argued that the president did not exceed his powers when he created the DAPA program and expanded a similar immigration program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which the states also challenge.
The justices seemed divided during the oral arguments over whether Obama overstepped his constitutional authority by offering deportation relief and work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants through DAPA and expanded DACA.
A decision from the justices could come in late June. A ruling favoring Obama would allow his administration to implement DAPA and expanded DACA before he leaves office in January.
It’s possible that the eight justices, down one following the death of Antonin Scalia in February, could reach a 4-4 decision. If this happens, an appeals court ruling that blocked Obama's executive actions on immigration would stand.
Tony Navarrete, a member of Promise Arizona, expressed confidence that the justices will side with the Obama administration. He was among dozens of people who gathered at the Arizona State Capitol Monday to voice their support for Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
“We do believe that justice is on our side,” he said. “DACA and DAPA are very much within the legal confines of the president’s power, so we do believe that we will win.”
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The Migration Policy Institute estimates there are about 97,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona who would qualify for DAPA and another 39,000 who would qualify for expanded DACA. Nationwide, as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants would qualify for DAPA and expanded DACA.
Graciela Pacheco is among the Arizona residents who would qualify for DAPA. The undocumented mother of six, two of them U.S. citizens, has been living in Arizona for more than a decade.
She said her biggest wish is to visit her ailing 92-year-old mother, whom she hasn’t seen since she immigrated to Arizona 14 years ago. DAPA would allow Pacheco to travel to Mexico and return to the United States legally.
“I have faith that I’ll get to see her this year,” Pacheco said, adding that she couldn’t attend her father’s funeral in Mexico three years ago.