Local Immigrant Rights Leaders Reflect on SCOTUS Ruling

by Ellis Simani

The debate over immigration policy in our country has long been among the most contentious topics of this year’s presidential and congressional elections, but yesterday morning it took center stage when the starkly polarized Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 vote on President Obama’s immigration plan. The executive action would have provided relief to millions of undocumented parents and children across the country.

Long-time immigrant rights activists, and elected officials Pramila Jayapal and Lorena Gonzalez wasted no time in responding to the Supreme Court’s vote. Washington State Senator, and congressional candidate, Pramila Jayapal explained the importance of the vote in a response distributed by her campaign.

“The President’s actions on immigration through the DAPA program were necessary because Congress has simply refused to take any action on fixing a clearly broken system that the majority of Americans—regardless of party—agree must be fixed.”

Jayapal made it clear that she took yesterday’s decision extremely personally. As an immigrant herself, coming to the country at the age of 16 with modest funds and an abundance of hope and aspiration, she has worked tirelessly over the past two decades to “demand sensible, comprehensive and humane action on immigration reform.”

In Washington State, the ruling will directly impact the 74,000 parents who could have been relieved from fears of deportation under one of the Obama measures that aimed to protect the parents of children who are in the country without documentation.

“We’ve got a very real choice that America faces right now,” Obama proclaimed at a press conference this Thursday morning while holding back tears. “We’re going to have to decide whether we’re a people who accept the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or whether we actually value families and keep them together for the sake of all of our communities.”

City of Seattle councilmember Lorena Gonzalez, who chairs the New Americans’ Committee on the Council, echoed the President’s words, but also offered messages of encouragement and hope.

“The movement is far from over. I believe passionately in those words at the base of the Statue of Liberty. I know that you do too. The immigrant community is resilient, one of indomitable spirit and hope. Our unwavering commitment to American values of justice, respect, dignity and togetherness makes us who we are.”

Councilmember Gonzalez also noted that in Seattle, 1 of 5 residents are foreign born and statewide it’s estimated that over 100,000 are undocumented. Gonzalez herself is the sole person of Latino descent on the City Council, and the daughter of immigrant parents herself. Her mother became a U.S. Citizen in 1996 and her father obtained status as a legal permanent resident.

Though Jayapal and Gonzalez both touched on the personal experiences influencing their dedication to the fight for immigration reform, they also made it clear that as a nation of immigrants, we are all equally endowed with the rights of freedom, justice and respect our country was built on.

It is unlikely that President Obama, who will be in Seattle this afternoon for a fundraiser, will receive another opportunity to push any meaningful immigration legislation during  the remaining months of his presidency. However, it remains certain that activists, community organizers and politicians at the state and local level will not stop until progress is won.