Elizabeth Residents to Rally for Immigration Reform in Washington

Organizer Douglas Martinez addresses the audience. Credits: Fran Sullivan

ELIZABETH, NJ – Martha Osorio stood choking back tears in front of several dozen people in the basement of the Snyder Academy, looking out at the audience she said, “I haven’t seen my mother in 22 years.”

The occasion was a meeting of Make the Road NJ, and the group was getting ready to travel to Washington to rally before the Supreme Court to uphold President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform. That is when the Justices will hear U.S. v. Texas, the court case that will decide the future of the President's Executive Action on immigration.

In 2012, President Obama announced his intention to take action in 2014 to grant relief to eligible individuals who came to the United States as children, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and to eligible parents of children who are citizens or lawful permanent residents, DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). DACA allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. DAPA would grant deferred action status to certain undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have children who are American citizens or lawful, permanent residents.

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On February 16, 2015, a federal judge in Texas blocked these two programs with 25 states joining Texas. The injunction meant that the programs could not be implemented. On November 9, 2015, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reaffirmed the decision. The Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to take the case. On January 19, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take the case, and a final decision could be made in June 2016.

The case has implications in a city with a heavy immigrant population, many of whom will be affected by the outcome. Osorio explained her experience as an undocumented resident, including her inability to get a driver’s license or return to her native Colombia to see her mother, “I am a good person. My children were born here. I pay my taxes, and I feel like I have been pushed to the side. I walk to work every day, and some days my legs burn with cold. I have been waiting these many years to participate fully in this country. We have to speak up for ourselves. We can’t be afraid. We have to think of our children.”

Prior to the Washington rally on Monday, the group will gather with other immigrant rights organizations on Sunday, April 17, at 1:30 p.m., on J. Owen Gundy Pier in Jersey City.

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