October 11, 2017 Atlanta: Yehimi Cambrón, 27, of Tucker, participates in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She previously taught art at Cross Keys High School in DeKalb County. “I am a stakeholder because I have been an educator and I grew up in Brookhaven. I just don’t see how I am not a part of this country.” Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

High court to hear arguments over program shielding young immigrants

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday centered on President Donald Trump’s decision to scrap an Obama administration program that is temporarily shielding nearly 700,000 young immigrants from deportation.

The program has divided Georgia for years, drawing outrage from the state’s top Republicans and fierce support from Atlanta’s political leadership.

As of June 30, 21,110 people in the state were participating in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Started in 2012, DACA grants renewable two-year work permits and deportation deferrals to immigrants who were brought here before they turned 16, who are attending school here and who have no felony convictions.

Critics say DACA undermines the rule of law, encourages illegal immigration and burdens taxpayer-funded resources, such as public schools. Supporters point out that many DACA recipients were children when they were brought here and did not have a choice. Now, however, they pay taxes and contribute to the economy through their work and spending. Ending the program, say DACA’s proponents, would split up immigrant families and cost Georgia more than $1 billion in annual gross domestic product.

Yehimi Cambrón, 27, an artist and public speaker from Tucker, is among a group of Georgia DACA recipients who are preparing to rally Tuesday in Washington, D.C. She was brought here at age 7 from Mexico.

“They are going to have to tear me out of my house. This is home,” said Cambrón, who previously taught art at Cross Keys High School, her alma mater. “I am a stakeholder because I have been an educator and I grew up in Brookhaven. I just don’t see how I am not a part of this country.”

All nine Georgia Republicans serving in the House voted against a Democratic bill this summer that sought to provide a path to citizenship to more than 2.5 million unauthorized immigrants. It passed largely along party lines, 237 to 187, and is unlikely to be taken up in the GOP-controlled Senate. Congressional Republicans insist that any plan offering legal status must be accompanied by measures to tighten security on the southern border and eliminate “loopholes” in existing immigration laws.

“President Obama’s 2012 decision to disregard the law and circumvent the legislative process went far beyond his constitutional power,” said Gainesville Congressman Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration-related issues. “I am hopeful the Supreme Court will once again take a stand against the previous administration’s unlawful move.”

The court is not expected make its ruling until next year, putting the issue at front and center in the 2020 presidential campaign. Georgia Republicans outside of metro Atlanta have been in lockstep with Trump on immigration issues, especially U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who’s up for re-election next year. But the administration’s hard-line stance could prove to be problematic in well-off suburban areas that have shown resistance to the president over the last two years.

An Economist/YouGov online poll of 1,500 adult U.S. citizens in September showed 59% support DACA, while 26% oppose it and 15% are not sure. Support is 4 percentage points higher from the poll taken in January of last year.

Trump campaigned on ending DACA. And, in September 2017, he announced he was following through on that promise.

“I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” Trump said then. “But we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”

The following day, 15 states filed suit in federal court, seeking to block Trump from canceling DACA. Georgia was not among them.

Other groups also have gone to court to stop the Trump administration. Among their arguments is that the president’s decision violates equal protection and due process rights.

Also in September 2017, the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution opposing the president’s decision and calling on the police to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The city later filed court papers, joining dozens of other cities and counties across the nation, in support of preserving DACA.

Last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a nationwide injunction imposed by a federal district court judge, calling Trump’s action “arbitrary and capricious.” Later, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond issued a similar ruling. A month later, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Meanwhile, advocates are encouraging young immigrants to apply to renew their DACA status while the court considers the case. The Latin American Association in Atlanta announced last week that it will help people do that with a $14,000 grant from Informed Immigrant, a coalition of immigrant support organizations.

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