Waiting on any court decision can cause anxiety, especially for those directly affected by it. But when a court’s decision affects the lives of millions, the stakes are much higher.
Consider how the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals continues to delay President Barack Obama’s executive order, which defers deportation for millions of immigrants, who have longstanding ties to the United States. The president’s order allows undocumented immigrants, who have worked for many years in the United States and who have children with legal status, to apply for relief from deportation and acquire work authorization.
Following the issuance of this order, 26 states, including Louisiana, sued to stop the order and were granted an injunction, temporarily preventing the order from going into effect. While the lawsuit claims subsequent damage to Louisiana and our nation’s economy, economic studies show that states would actually benefit from these initiatives. According to the Council of Economic Advisors, Louisiana’s economy would grow by $1.4 billion to $3.2 billion over the next 10 years.
On July 10, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from both sides of the issue.
The court’s website states that its “goal is to issue an opinion generally within 60 days after argument, but generally the court rules within 30 days.” But three months later, the court has yet to render a decision.
Once the decision is made, the administration will have the option to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But if the court keeps delaying, then it could become impossible to get the case to the Supreme Court before the president’s term ends.
I hope that is not the case.
As a public servant, it is my duty to find solutions to problems that face the people of New Orleans, and that includes our immigrant population. Since Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, New Orleans has seen its immigrant population grow. Many of these recent arrivals are from Latin American countries. While their efforts have played an integral part in rebuilding our homes and infrastructure, our city has sometimes repaid their kindness with suspicion, imprisonment and deportation.
Consider the past practice of Immigration Custom and Enforcement holds, where people were detained in Orleans Parish Prison if suspected of being in the country illegally. Often these people would languish in our city’s tax funded prison, while waiting on the federal immigration bureau to deal with their cases.
It’s obvious that this practice cost our city money in resources and police enforcement, but more importantly it induced fear and mistrust. Our immigrant population became afraid to report crimes because they worried police would turn them over to immigration officials, regardless of any justification for doing so.
At the Congress of Day Laborers’ Children’s March for Human Rights, my heart grew heavier and heavier as I listened to child after child describe the emotional trauma of losing a parent to deportation. In just one year, more than 3000 people — many with children and with longstanding ties to our country — were forcibly deported from Louisiana, for the “ruthless crime” of wanting a better life for themselves and their children in the United States.”
Orleans Parish Sheriff Gusman ended ICE holds in 2013 after the City Council passed a resolution, requesting the Sheriff’s Office refrain from unlawfully detaining undocumented immigrants for indefinite time periods.
The council went further in breaking down barriers and promoting inclusiveness when it recently passed the “Welcoming City” resolution in September 2015. The resolution includes four benchmarks: police and community relations, cultural competency, economic opportunity, language access.
The resolution details how each benchmark will be attained, and allows for further growth. City departments have already begun implementing the benchmarks.
While it’s clear that New Orleans is striving to make our city more accessible to everyone, the lawsuit against the presidential order goes against those goals and does nothing to fix the broken immigration system.
The court should remember the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and render a decision that provides a pragmatic solution rather than a political tactic.
LaToya Cantrell is a member of the New Orleans City Council.