June 28, 2016
All eyes were on the Supreme Court for its United States v. Texas decision last week, but quieter immigration battles were playing out in a county jail a bit closer to home. Before dawn on the day after the ruling, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus staff headed out to the Yuba County Jail, where hundreds of immigrants are detained by ICE while they fight deportation. We provided legal consultations to dozens of people, assisted with applications, and screened people for representation. We are often the only attorneys that detainees will see before they are deported.
Had the Court allowed DAPA to go forward, we still would have been at the jail, and so would all the people we met with. None were eligible for DAPA. Under the President’s “Felons, Not Families” policy, they are all priorities for deportation.
Deferred Action was always an imperfect response to America’s deportation crisis. DAPA would have given work permits and a sense of security to millions, but at a cost. At the same time that he announced DAPA, the President also unveiled a set of “enforcement priorities” that painted a target on other immigrants. The people in the crosshairs are immigrants who have been caught up in our brutal criminal justice system–the “worst of the worst,” as the administration has branded them. As we met with them one by one last Friday, it was painfully clear that they are actually fathers, husbands, people with mental health issues, refugees, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
As the fight for deportation relief continues, we will keep telling the stories of people from the most marginalized parts of our communities. We will continue rejecting the logic of enforcement priorities, which only legitimizes the deportation machinery.