As the administration of President Barack Obama on Tuesday indicated that it would take the fight for his immigration plan all the way to the Supreme Court, advocates said there's much he can do outside the court system to end the suffering and record deportations still occurring on his watch.
One day after a federal appeals court blocked implementation of the President's executive order on immigration, a Justice Department spokesperson announced that a Supreme Court petition will be filed.
"The Department disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s adverse ruling and intends to seek further review from the Supreme Court of the United States," said Patrick Rodenbush. "The Department of Justice remains committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible in order to allow [Department of Homeland Security] to bring greater accountability to our immigration system by prioritizing the removal of the worst offenders, not people who have long ties to the United States and who are raising American children."
If implemented, those policies, namely the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, could impact an estimated 4.4 million people.
The White House's appeal was widely supported by immigrant rights organizations as well as progressive groups and leaders, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who said that "American immigration policy should be about uniting families, not separating families."
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, applauded the Justice Department's decision, saying now "the only thing standing between millions of immigrants and relief from constant fear and uncertainty are the nine justices on the Supreme Court."
However, other organizers who are working on the front lines with immigrants and asylum seekers say there is much that Obama can do today to "dismantle" the broken immigration system.
"We expect the President to do more than appeal the decision and wait for the court," explained Marisa Franco, director of the #Not1More deportation campaign. "President Obama’s legacy is being determined as we speak not by a far off court ruling. The President, every local official, and the candidates running to be his successor have the responsibility to act now to concretely affirm the right and dignity of migrants and to dismantle the massive criminalization and deportation system that’s been built under this administration."
The #Not1More campaign on Tuesday put forth a list of five policy points that the President could enact immediately to help immigrant communities. Among the recommendations are shutting down immigrant detention centers and ending collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law agencies, which they say cultivates racial profiling.
Next week, immigrants and their advocates are holding a week of action to mark the anniversary and declare that they are tired of waiting for change.
"Through all of the confusion of the past year, three things are clear," the organizers state. "One, We still demand the right to live and work without fear in the communities we call home. Two, ICE is more aggressive and less accountable. Three, nothing has ever been won by waiting."
The Chicago-based Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) issued a statement on Tuesday declaring, "we will not wait as our families continue to be separated, our homes raided, and as the collaboration between police and ICE continues."
"The President doesn’t need the courts to give relief from deportations to the 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.," OCAD added. "Obama can start by ending immigrant detention and programs [...] that ultimately ends in the criminalization, detention, and deportation of our communities."