Presidential election will determine policies and futures for immigrants in San Antonio


By Christopher Repka, Mylaina Remling, Gabe de los Rios, Gabrielle Negrete


On Friday, June 23, 2016, immigrant families in San Antonio received a discouraging verdict from the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down President Barack Obama’s executive action on an immigration reform in Supreme Court case Texas v. United States.

DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, would provide undocumented parents of legal U.S. citizens and residents the freedom to reside legally within U.S. borders. The executive action would also extend the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) renewal period from two to three years.

However, on June 23, 2016, following Texas and 25 other states’ suit against the United States in the legal battle Texas v. United States, the Supreme Court reached a 4-4 split decision, which will remain undecided until a ninth Supreme Court justice is appointed.

President Obama has made concerted efforts to appoint Merrick Garland, a purported political moderate. However, President Obama’s efforts were stonewalled by the U.S. Senate. The Senate is required to approve Supreme Court appointments by a majority. Without this majority, the seat ninth seat of the Supreme Court remains empty.

The stalemate in the Senate is likely to cease upon the election of the next president. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have almost opposite outlooks on immigration reform policy. Consequently, the outcome of the appointment of the next Supreme Court justice and the fate of the Texas v. United States are likely to be contingent on the policies of the next elected president of the United States.

Meanwhile, in San Antonio and many other cities, immigrants face increasing difficulty and confusion regarding applications for DACA.

St. Mary’s University’s Maria Garza, a junior history major from Monterrey, Mexico, spoke about her troubles going through the DACA application process.

The first time Garza and her family applied for DACA, Garza applied through a private firm; however, the second time, the Garzas were given pro-bono aide from the St. Mary’s University Center for Legal and Social Justice.

“The second time was very long and tiring. You know, I can’t work during that time [without DACA renewal], so it was just like, ‘How is school getting paid and how are bills getting paid?’ I need to help my parents too.”

Guillermo Hernandez, attorney for San Antonio’s Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law, said there is a lot of concern among his clients who are DACA recipients about the upcoming election.

“There is definitely fear in the air for many of our clients, and I think there has been some hesitation to renew or acquire these benefits because of some of the rhetoric we hear from the political process, the election and different candidates.”

Hernandez seems to believe that those fears are well founded.

“There’s a lot of concern that these [undocumented] people now have identified themselves [to the government] and said, ‘This is where I live’. Even though DACA is a good protection, it is not a legal status.”

This means that, even though undocumented immigrants have the legal ability to become employed, obtain a driver’s license and attend school, they are not guaranteed protection from deportation. Nor does DACA provide undocumented immigrants with a direct pathway to citizenship.

In an election fueled by political scandal, meaningful discourse has been neglected. Looking toward the issues, voters will be pressed on Election Day to make a decision which will benefit their families and friends.