This op-ed was originally posted in Spanish on Sunday, November 7, 2016 on Univision.com.
If Hispanics tip the scales in Nevada, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania, Clinton would have the tools to implement real immigration change that would provide relief for millions of our friends, relatives, and neighbors.”
Blanca Gámez is actively working to get out the Hispanic vote for Hillary Clinton. But she is quite clear that the White House is only half of the goal. Gámez knows if Democrats don’t gain back control of the Senate deportation relief for undocumented immigrants like her and her parents would evaporate.
Gámez, who works for the organization For Our Future, is a young undocumented woman who arrived in the United States when she was only 7 months old. Her sister is an American citizen. Her mother is undocumented, while her father is a legal permanent resident. Gámez is protected by DACA, the executive action President Obama implemented in 2012 for DREAMers. Her mother qualifies for the DAPA program, Obama’s executive action to protect the parents of citizens or permanent residents.
However, several Republican governors sued and tied up DAPA in the courts. The preliminary case reached the Supreme Court in June. Justices were unable to reach a reach a verdict resulting in a 4-4 tie. The Court is expected to take up the case again next year. People like Gámez hope that at that point Clinton will have named a ninth justice to complete the Court and vote for Gámez’s mother future --and her family’s. And here is where the Senate comes into play: It is the chamber is in charge of confirming Supreme Court nominees.
Ironically, Republican Senator Marco Rubio explained it best when he announced he would seek re-election in Florida despite denying returning to the Senate for most of the year. But I digress on Rubio’s chamaleonic nature. In recent week, Rubio has said: “The future of the Supreme Court will be decided in the next couple of years and I think I have something to offer in this fight.”
On March 16, 2015, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat. Senate Republicans have refused to even give him an up or down voteon his confirmation. Their excuse was that voters should decide the future of the Court this November. The result is that Garland becoming the record holder as the nominee who has waited the longest for a confirmation vote (before him the record belonged to Justice Louis Brandeis, because several senators didn’t feel comfortable with a Jewish man on the High Court). Already several Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz and John McCain have said that if Clinton wins on Tuesday they will obstruct all Court nominations. In other words, the previous argument of waiting until the people decided is not as convenient and are now looking for a new one.
Without a complete Supreme Court there won’t be any DAPA. Without a Democratic-controlled Senate there won’t be a confirmation vote to make the Court whole. More than 4.5 million parents plus their American children depend on Democrats winning back at least four additional seats on Tuesday to keep the faith alive. But, if Democrats don’t win states like Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina --and protect Democratic seas like in Nevada where the Latino vote is the keystone in these elections-- the consequences could be nefarious for families like the Gámezes.
Without a doubt a Hillary Clinton victory is critical for undocumented immigrants. Trump has promised to eliminate DACA, and of course, DAPA. Clinton promised to not only implement DAPA, but expand it until Congress approves comprehensive immigration reform. However, if the Supreme Court kills DAPA, there won’t be any more immigration-related executive actions.
From a political perspective, Republican legislators will feel they can continue with their anti-immigrant rhetoric and keep their jobs. Translation to Trumpish: obstructing immigration reform reaps rewards. But, if Hispanics tip the scales in Nevada, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania, Clinton would have the tools to implement real immigration change that would provide relief for millions of our friends, relatives, and neighbors. More importantly, Republicans will have to ask themselves: “can we afford to block immigration reform while the Latino community keeps growing?”
Only Latinos can answer that question. We need to show we understand that control of the Senate is key for Gámez’s life and her family’s and that will raise our voices on their behalf.