There is a communal breath holding going on among immigrants and their allies as they wait for a Supreme Court ruling that could profoundly alter their lives.
The Supreme Court is nearing the end of this year’s term and still must rule on the more than two dozen states' challenge of President's Barack Obama's use of executive action to suspended deportations and grant permits to work to millions of immigrants not legally in the U.S.
The decision on the expanded DACA and DAPA programs could come this week or next, most likely this Thursday, next Monday or June 30.
There are a number of possible outcomes, including a potential tie vote because of the still vacant seat on the court that belonged to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But for those whose hopes have been in stasis as they’ve waited on the courts, the result will more straightforward.
“Ultimately, for our community, it’s either win or lose. For families anxiously waiting the past two years since the announcement of DAPA, they want to hear they can potentially emerge from the shadows and contribute to their communities as we saw those who got DACA do,” said Jorge Mario Cabrera, communications director for Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
DAPA is one of the programs authorized by Obama in December 2014. It would allow parents here illegally and with U.S. citizens or legal resident children to remain in the U.S. and work.
Also under scrutiny by the court is an expansion of the 2012 DACA program for younger immigrants in the U.S. illegally, many who came with their parents. The expansion, often called DACA-plus, would make it a three-year instead of a two-year program.
Whatever comes down is likely to take some legal analysis, but Cabrera said a “win” for the community would be a ruling that upholds DAPA and allows it to be implemented.
"We are cautiously optimistic the high court will see it our way and justice will prevail in this case and give up to 5 million families the opportunity they've been seeking to emerge from the shadows," Cabrera said.
Isabel Medina, a potential DAPA applicant, said she has spent 20 years in the U.S. and has been "frustrated, angry and disappointed" by the long legal wait.
“It’s ridiculous we have to go through this because racism is taking away the opportunity for us to fully contribute to this great country,” said Medina, a mother of two U.S. citizen children and one who is a DACA recipient.
DAPA would be a "360 degree" change, that would first and foremost allow families to remain together but that could also mean buying a second car, a home and putting schooling to use, she said.
"We have been fighting so hard, right now I feel the Supreme Court is going to say yes to DAPA," she said.
Groups that are working with the immigrant community are preparing for either scenario.
Paola Calvo Florido, communications manager at the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said the group plans news conferences in Miami, Tampa and Apopka to inform the community of the ruling as well as community meetings a week or so later.
"We have been anxious," she said.
United We Dream, an activism group for young immigrants, gathered 1,000 of its members in Houston last weekend to plot their response.
If DAPA and the expanded DACA are allowed to go forward, the group will hold trainings so members can help people gather documents and fill out needed forms; they also plan to hold large-scale clinics, according to Greisa Martinez, the group’s advocacy director.
Cabrera said his group is preparing for a “mass number” of people who will come to CHIRLA offices, as they did after 2012 DACA was announced, to get help and guidance. In addition, the group is working with Mexican and Central American consulates and the Los Angeles school district to assist potential applicants as well, he said.
All of the groups are folding political work into preparations for the ruling, organizing to register and turn out voters. The groups say they want to put pressure on candidates at all levels of government to not only support continuing the executive action into the next administration, but also get immigration reform done and put other immigration policies in place.
Martinez said even with a favorable ruling, the community will need to "defend the victory" being thwarted by officials in any of the 26 states that are trying to stop the programs.
"The backlash our community can expect from 26 states is a huge one so we want to be sure everyone knows their rights," Martinez said.
But win or lose, the groups say they still have a fight on their hands with the election, since the next president could repeal the executive action. Clinton has said she would continue them and try to go beyond them. Trump has pledged mass deportations.
“We are going to fight with our effort to get the Latino voters involved and get out the vote and remind Congress that we are not pleased with their decision to halt any movement towards immigration reform, but also to halt this opportunity for our families,” Cabrera said.
“It’s going to get very ugly in November,” he said.
The fight has left many immigrants tiredand aware that the court's decision could go against them, Medina said. But it has not left Medina fearful.
“I have been here 20 years and everything has been the same, fighting for every single day – to go to work, to not get pulled over by a police officer and end up in deportation – that is our fight every day on the street, so this is not new to us,” Medina said. “We are not saying 'Okay. We are giving up.' We just become even stronger. We are ready to fight.”