High schooler Lupe Salmeron, speaks at Madison’s Centro Hispano about the importance of maintaining immigrant protections from deportation. She was joined by Centro’s Director Karen Menendez Coller, standing behind her, and Mayor Paul Soglin, to her left. Credit: Cara Lombardo.
Lupe Salmeron, a senior at Madison East High School, is one of the 1.3 million youth who received deportation exemption from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The executive order, signed by President Obama in 2012, also granted recipients renewable two-year work permits.
“Receiving DACA has opened many doors for me, including being able to contribute to our economy and get more professional work experiences through internships that I’ve been able to get through my work permit,” Salmeron said. “DACA has also empowered me to step out of the shadows and show the world what hardworking immigrants like us can actually do.”
Yet many undocumented immigrants remain unprotected. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) would offer deportation exemption and work permits to as many as five million parents of documented citizens and residents. But the measure is currently on hold due to a lawsuit brought by twenty-six Republican governors—including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case.
Centro Hispano, a Latino-focused nonprofit in Madison, and Voces de la Frontera, Wisconsin’s largest immigrant rights group, held a joint press conference in Madison in support of the measure. It was one of countless events held throughout the country Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the legality of DAPA.
Among the speakers was Maribel Brito, a parent who would benefit if DAPA is upheld. Her daughter Yari, a student at Madison Memorial High School, translated as she spoke.
“I would be eligible for a driver’s license. I would not be driving around in fear that the police is going to stop me,” Brito said. “[Our family] would also be able to receive prescription medicine because some medicines do require a state ID.”
The Supreme Court, an eight-person court due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, appears evenly divided on the legality of DAPA. If this split holds, it would leave in place a Texas appeals court’s ruling against DAPA and not grant protections to people like Maribel.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval, whose own force has a policy against questioning someone’s immigration status, called for an end to “punitive and prohibitive” legislation at the press conference. “We need to have more inclusivity in order to have all of our constituents be heard,” he said. “The Madison Police Department will continue to support that.”
Earlier this year, 14,000 people attended a rally at the state Capitol organized by Voces de la Frontera to oppose two bills deemed “anti-immigrant.” One measure would have limited sanctuary city policies like Madison’s and the other would disallow locally issued ID cards from meeting the state’s new voter ID requirement. The first wasn’t taken up again following the rally; the ID law currently awaits Walker’s signature.
Karen Menendez Coller, Centro Hispano’s executive director, said she felt hopeful. She closed by offering a message to immigrant families: “We will not stop advocating for you . . . . We will not stop until immigration reform passes in this country.”
Cara Lombardo is editorial intern for The Progressive.