U.S. Representative Jared Polis

Op-Eds

Supreme Court must validate DACA, DAPA+ immigration programs

by Rep. Jared Polis

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Washington, April 22, 2016 | comments

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in U.S. vs. Texas, which will decide the fate of the president's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA+) programs.

I joined thousands of demonstrators on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington in support of these programs, which help keep families together, allow DREAMers and parents of American children to work legally, and would greatly contribute to our economy and national security.

Both programs represent the prioritization of our immigration-enforcement apparatus to focus our limited resources on detaining and deporting immigrants who pose a danger to our communities. If Congress wanted the president to detain and remove all of the approximately 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants throughout the U.S., it would appropriate sufficient resources to do so. Instead, Congress allocates sufficient funds to remove approximately 400,000 individuals per year, and most Americans agree that it's logical to apply those resources to individuals who pose a threat to our communities.

The DAPA and DACA+ programs are limited to unauthorized immigrants who have the strongest ties to the U.S. In order to qualify for DAPA, individuals would have to prove, among other things, that they have been in the U.S. for at least five years and that they are the parents of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child. And the DACA+ program would provide the same benefit for DREAMers who entered the U.S. as children — many of whom know no country other than the U.S. and are Americans in every respect, other than on paper.

Both programs also would create significant economic benefits for our economy. There are an estimated 84,000 potential DAPA beneficiaries in Colorado, and the full implementation of the program would increase state GDP by more than $3 billion over 10 years. Moreover, these programs have been shown to have a transformative effect on the lives of their beneficiaries, effects that are now benefiting the more than 700,000 people who have successfully applied for the president's original DACA program implemented in 2012.

Despite this progress, the only way to truly fix the myriad problems that plague our broken immigration system is meaningful reform in Congress. DACA and DACA+ represent sensible steps by President Obama to create a patch that provides millions of families with peace of mind until Congress manages to enact comprehensive reform. Those of us who have worked on this issue for years agree that this was the president's only option in light of an intransigent Congress. I hope the next president allows these programs to continue.

Despite all of these potential benefits, 26 Republican governors have pursued this thinly veiled partisan and political lawsuit that should never have made it to this point. The U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas, issued a nationwide injunction preventing the implementation of the programs based upon the speculative harm that Texas would suffer in having to issue driver's licenses to beneficiaries.

In a fateful twist of irony, the plaintiffs in this litigation were so driven by extreme ideology that they lost sight of the consequence of significantly expanding the role of our limited judiciary by potentially winning before the Supreme Court. The heart of the dispute relating to these programs is a political question, and therefore one that should be resolved between the president and Congress. Congress has repeatedly attempted to derail these programs through its power of the purse. It has failed to do so, and opponents have therefore turned to the judiciary in an attempt to resolve this matter in their favor.

It's time for Congress to stop abdicating its responsibility and to restore the rule of law by creating an immigration system that is consistent with our values and our economic needs as a nation. In the interim, we will rely on the Supreme Court to rule in a manner that is consistent with years of precedent so that we can move forward and help implement these tremendously beneficial programs before the end of the year.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat, represents Colorado's 2nd Congressional District.

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