Thursday, June 23, 2016

Reflections on United States v. Texas by Lizbeth Cuevas, Student Immigrant Rights Activist

The divided Supreme Court decision in United States v. Texas has dashed the hopes of those who would have been granted deferred action and given work authorization through DAPA and extended DACA.  The implementation of these programs was an important step for our nation, as it would have finally given productive members of our communities a voice  -- people who have been forced into silence and made to feel less than human time and time again. The decision the Supreme Court has made only reinforces the broken immigration system and anti-immigrant political climate. The United States is known as the land of opportunity, a place where freedom rules and equality prevails. The freedom, opportunity and equality on which our nation prides itself in does not expand to all members of our communities. DAPA and extended DACA would have been the first step for our nation to reconcile the deeply offensive immigrant rhetoric that has clouded Americans from seeing undocumented immigrants as equal members of society. The countless negative pre-conceived notions the immigrant community is tainted with dismantle their positive impact and contributions to our economy, schools and nation as a whole. These individuals are not given an equal share of opportunity and freedom. Yet, through perseverance and resilience, they continue to work tirelessly because they uphold the American values of working hard towards a better future. 

The numbers 5 million, 11 million, 12 million, are heard often when immigration is discussed. For many, these numbers have no significance. They are a dissociation from the face, the real person and the life that lives behind the shadows of these numbers. The teacher who fled war and famine to provide a better education for her children, the farmer who fled poverty to provide his family with means to eat and the doctor who was forced out of their home country from a corrupt regime. These are only a few examples of the individuals that came in search of better lives, they came in search of freedom and a peaceful, dignified way of life. These are the very same people who are labeled as criminals and are discounted for their contributions to our nation. They have come to love and respect the United States as their home, but in return they have received rejection and continued oppression. Through United States v. Texas, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to rule against discrimination and oppression. To give the people a ruling that was aligned with the values of our land which oppose discriminating and oppressing others; as well as the laws that serve to protect those in need and to uphold justice to all. Furthermore, the "decision" of United States v. Texas was also a decision of division versus unity. The division of families, of communities and the continued division of our nation on the appropriate way to approach immigration. The vote of the Supreme Court was a vote against unity and against the implementation of a program that had the potential to bring the faces behind the numbers out of the shadows. 

Giving parents of U.S citizens or lawful permanent residents work authorization and relief from deportation, is also giving them their entitled rights to be treated as human beings and be viewed equally in the face of the law. Due to the Supreme Court decision, their treatment as underclass citizens, their exploitation, and the oppression and hate they are constantly facing will continue. The ruling did not prioritize the humanitarian concerns that face our nation when members of our communities are exploited, abused and criminalized unjustly. These are the consequences of a broken immigration system which will continue to be endured by parents and children who are directly affected by this decision. The fear of separation and the stress of an uncertain future continue to fog the minds of our children and their parents. 

I stood outside the steps of the Supreme Court on April 18th while the oral arguments were taking place. I stood alongside a small portion of the millions that would be directly affected by the Supreme Court decision. The unity, hope and excitement that was felt on that hot day was the power of the people. The endless amount of support and encouragement that filled the steps of the Supreme Court is what will continue to unite people to fight for a just reform. The fight to keep families together, to give everyone a fair shot at the American dream and to give justice and equality to all continues.   

Lizbeth Cuevas is a 2016 graduate of UC Davis.



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