While reporting on the Supreme Court deadlock on President Obama’s executive action on immigration, media should make note of its negative impact on millions of workers and families, as Univision and NPR have done in their past reporting on the case.
On June 23, a 4-4 Supreme Court split affirmed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit's decision to block implementation of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). This exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” would have given temporary relief from deportation to close to 3.7 million people, bringing the undocumented parents of American citizens or permanent residents out of the shadows and making them eligible for work authorization. The decision also affects an expansion of President Obama’s 2012 executive action Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
According to immigration attorney and CNN opinion columnist David Leopold, who speculated about the outcome of the case back in April, the tie could lead to “three levels of profound chaos”:
A 4–4 split in U.S. v Texas, for example, would result in three levels of profound chaos ensuing. A 4–4 split on the Supreme Court would: provide a green light to Republican-controlled states — not the federal government — to determine the nation’s immigration enforcement policy — contradicting the Court’s major precedent in the process; open the door to a myriad of politically-charged lawsuits that states would be newly empowered to bring against sitting presidents; and raise questions about whether the injunction placed on the deportation deferral guidance, known as DAPA and DACA+, should continue to apply across country, ultimately leading to a patchwork of confusing immigration enforcement regimes in different states and regions of the U.S.
The impacts, however, are also deeply personal to immigrant families, particularly to the Latino community. A Univision segment on June 15’s Univision's Noticiero Univision Edición Nocturna highlighted the stories of some of those who benefited under the 2012 DACA executive action and explained that over 3.5 million people could be negatively impacted if the president’s 2014 executive action failed at the Supreme Court:
The American Immigration Council explained in April that a Supreme Court tie would be harmful to the economy, as individuals who would have benefited from the programs would no longer be able to contribute by earning “an additional $7.1 billion ... in income” or by generating additional tax revenue.
Most importantly, media should contextualize the case by reporting that the success of this executive action would have kept families together, protecting children whose parents are at risk of deportation from psychological harm, an issue exemplified in a June 22 NPR report:
KELLY MCEVERS (HOST): For many families, there is a lot riding on a case that's now before the Supreme Court. It's about President Obama's executive order known as Deferred Actions for Parents of Americans. It could shield millions of people who are here illegally from deportation. There's growing research that shows when a parent is arrested by immigration authorities, it can have a big impact on a child's mental and physical health. Adrian Florido of Code Switch brings us one family's story.
ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: The Diaz family lives in a squat, pink apartment building in Miami's Little Havana. Early one morning three years ago, Dad, Jose, was arrested just as he left for work. When Mom, Marcela, and her 8-year-old son, Bryan, went outside, they saw Jose's truck idling in the driveway, its door open. A white van with tinted windows was blocking its exit, and they realized Jose was inside. As the school bus pulled up, Bryan started crying.
WENDY CERVANTES: Inability to sleep at night, a lot of anxiousness, behavioral problems, low academic performance.
FLORIDO: This is Wendy Cervantes of the children's advocacy group First Focus.
CERVANTES: But it's also - obviously the mental health impact becomes even greater when a child actually witnesses a parent being arrested or loses a parent as a result of deportation or detention.
FLORIDO: Lili Farhang directs Oakland-based Human Impact Partners, which has tried to quantify the effects. Her group estimates that in 2012, for example, up to 100,000 kids had shown signs of withdrawal after a parent's detention or deportation. She says this is only a fraction of the children at risk.
LILI FARHANG: You have 4 million kids, you know, who can face having a parent be deported and you have to wonder what are the long-term effects for this population of children?