South Philly family anxiously awaits ruling on Obama immigration orders

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Supporters of  immigration reform hold hands as they leave together after hearing arguments at the Supreme Court in the case U.S. versus Texas Monday in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Supporters of immigration reform hold hands as they leave together after hearing arguments at the Supreme Court in the case U.S. versus Texas Monday in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared split on Monday over President Obama’s plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

As the country awaits a decision in the coming weeks, Bazalina Berez is anxious.

Berez moved to South Philly from Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. She’s undocumented, but she would qualify under one of Obama’s deferred action programs that allows parents of legal residents to apply for work permits as long as have a clean record and have been here for five years. It’s known formally as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. 

“We’re a little scared because we don’t know what’s going to happen. If the action doesn’t pass, our quality of life will suffer. And it will be harder to achieve my family’s dream of starting our own business,” Berez said. She spoke while riding a Philadelphia-bound bus full of activists driving back from Washington, D.C., where she and others demonstrated Monday in support of the actions being legally affirmed.

The immigration proposals Obama announced two years ago have been put on hold since Texas and 25 other states, most controlled by Republicans, sued to stop them.

Texas has argued that if undocumented migrants become temporary legal citizens, they’ll have to be issued state-subsidized licenses. Texas is claiming that’s an injury that gives it standing before the high court.

“The argument that Texas is making would allow almost any executive branch policy change that imposes some administrative costs on the states to justify a lawsuit,” said Drexel law professor Anil Kalhan.

Kalhan said the high court could throw the case out based on standing. Or, if the justices are evenly split, the lower court hold on Obama’s executive orders will remain for now.

The roughly 4 million undocumented immigrants who’d benefit from the programs could now be in limbo, Kalhan said. Though the programs offer a temporary reprieve, they are no substitute for new laws that create a pathway to citizenship.

“This is really the kind of initiative that’s the natural evolution when Congress doesn’t act, and you have scarce resources,” he said.

Kalhan said if the Supreme Court punts, the case will very likely end up in front of it again sometime after the presidential election.

A final decision is expected sometime before late June.

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