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The Year in Immigration: The fight for reform continues

Activists fight to protect Obama’s executive action on immigration reform and look ahead to 2016 elections

The year is ending with a partial victory for immigration advocates since President Barack Obama took executive action to announce some of the most sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policies in decades. But the fight for immigration reform is far from over and is likely to stretch through to the 2016 presidential election as the increasingly powerful Latino vote continues to reshape the political landscape.

After a year of roller coaster emotions on both sides of the immigration debate — disappointment, frustration and outright anger toward Obama and both parties in Congress for inaction — reform advocates are gearing up again for battle.

Republicans in Congress want to stop any changes before they start. The House passed a bill on Dec. 4 declaring Obama’s executive action to curb deportations for up to 5 million undocumented immigrants “null and void and without legal effect.” The bill was viewed as a mostly symbolic rebuke, since it has little chance in the Senate and can be vetoed by Obama.

And on Dec. 3, Texas and 16 other states announced that they would be suing Obama over his recent immigration policy changes, with seven more states joining the lawsuit the next day. They are asking a federal judge to block implementation of the executive action until the lawsuit is resolved.

Proponents of immigration reform are finding themselves fighting to protect something that many were not overjoyed with to in the first place. Executive action is good for their cause and has received overwhelming support from Latinos, but it can be challenged. And the plan benefits fewer than half the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Most want Congress to pass a comprehensive reform package that would change the law of the land and give all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. a way to legalize their status and even become citizens.

Obama’s plan will help many, but it still leaves out about 300,000 parents of immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and qualified for a reprieve from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the directive issued by Obama in 2012. For them, life in the shadows continues.

In the year ahead, expect the rallies, hunger strikes, marches and demonstrations that marked 2014 to continue. The National Fast for Families is in its second month, and more than 10,000 advocates and activists have joined nationwide.

Various civic engagement groups have begun reaching out to voters in key congressional districts, targeting specific House Republicans standing in the way of comprehensive reform. Hundreds are camping out in front of representatives’ offices.

Immigrant groups are focused on 2016 (every two years, all 435 House seats and one-third of Senate seats are contested) and are intent on galvanizing Latino voters, many of whom stayed away from the polls during the midterm elections. Many were disillusioned by Obama’s decision to delay executive action until after the midterms — viewed as giving in to pressure from Democrats worried about negative reactions from voters. Some Latinos even called for a boycott at the polls to punish both Democrats and Republicans and make it clear that their votes can’t be taken for granted.

Immigrants newly eligible for deportation relief, by state
Roll over states below for information about the estimated number of unauthorized immigrants eligible for deportation relief.

Over 40%

Over 35%

Over 30%

Over 25%

Under 25%


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