In a show of solidarity with President Barack Obama’s executive decision to expand immigration relief to parents of United States citizens, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to sign on to an amicus brief in support of the White House’s appeal to a ruling handed down earlier this year in a Texas courtroom.
The 8-0 vote—Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo was absent at the time of the vote—means that when the case is heard by the Supreme Court, (it is expected to reach the high court), the city’s signature will be included in the challenge to a Fifth Circuit ruling. The ruling is in regard to the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program that would grant non-citizen parents of American children work permits and protect them from deportation.
By signing onto the amicus brief, Long Beach joins Cities United For Immigration Action (CUIA), a coalition of about 100 cities and counties that have pledged support for the president’s immigration reform efforts. The group represents some 43 million people from nearly 100 cities and counties across the country that have signed on in support of Obama’s challenge to the court’s ruling. Mayor Robert Garcia had already signed onto a mayor’s challenge facilitated by the group, one that includes 10 mayors from California, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco.
The item was brought to the council chambers by First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez and Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga, who represent two of the city’s most immigrant-dense populations. Uranga noted the diversity present on the council, and pointed to those in the audience who made it out to voice their support of the council signing onto the amicus brief.
He said that by supporting the initiative, Long Beach could help stave off draconian measures that could have unintended impacts on the economy and also break up millions of American families through the process of deportation.
“There is a better way toward immigration reform,” Uranga said. “Texas versus the United States is not that path to take.”
Nearly two dozen community members and advocates lined up for their chance to voice their personal stories of how they’ve been impacted by the president’s action and how overturning Texas vs. United States would keep their families together. Estelle Del Valle, a 15-year resident of the Sixth District, said that while she is not the mother of children born in this country, her daughters are. Both have given birth to children in the US, and one is currently waiting protections that would be granted under DAPA. She said the two initiatives stand to benefit many people in her neighborhood.
“This is the land of my grandchildren; this is the land where they’ve grown up, this is the city where they were born and raised,” Del Valle said. “Even though this is not something that benefits me directly, this is something that I support because I support my community.”
Melissa Gomez, a teenage daughter of two immigrants that would potentially benefit from DAPA, said her parents would not only get to stay in the country through the act, but could potentially seek out better jobs that would help pay mounting bills. Gomez, a cancer survivor, added that it’s a her parents’ dream to take her to Mexico one day before they die, something that can’t currently be done , for fear of being denied re-entry to the US.
“I hope that my parents get their papers soon, because I dream of going to high school and graduating from college, but I can’t do this if I get sent back to Mexico,” Gomez said.
The challenge to the president’s executive action was based on a three-part objection, stating that it violated procedures for implementing legislation, overstepped the president’s constitutional powers and that the Department of Homeland Security lacked the authority to implement such a program that would grant legal status to immigrants and allow them to seek jobs. The Texas ruling was upheld if the Fifth District in May by a 2-1 vote.
By signing on to the coalition, the city merely adds its name to the list of supporters of the president’s action, a list that will be filed if and when the case is heard by the Supreme Court. Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal said that although there is no policy action or legislative powers being enacted by the council’s vote, it is important that the public know which side of the issue it stands on.
“I think you all understand that this council does not have legal authority over this issue, but it is important for us to stand up and make statements, however symbolic they may be, that impact a great percentage of our residents and that is what that action would be,” Lowenthal said in her closing statements. “And while it may not change laws or move the mountains that stand in the way of families being united and remaining united, at least symbolically you will know that your council stands with you and stands on the side of humanity."