By Rachel Bussett
Orange is the New Black premiered for the last season this past week. I’ve spent my free time the last week binging every episode to see what happens to the women of Litchfield Prison.
Law related shows tend to be my escape from the real world guilty pleasure despite the fact that I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by the weight of my clients despair with the system.
This season has the ladies living through the normal birth, death, arrival and departure cycles of the show with the added layer of the risk of deportation added into prison life. At the end of last season we saw the show’s white protagonist Piper being released on parole while a Hispanic inmate Blanca was released into ICE custody instead of freedom.
Much of this season has been spent following the exploitation of Blanca and others by the system and the denial of their rights to basic comforts that the women had as federal prisoners. This show has so many different areas that I could write on to teach you about the system that it’s difficult to choose where to begin the topic of this column.
Immigration is one of those subjects that everyone seems to have an opinion on but does not truly know what the law says. I practice in many areas of law. However, immigration is not an area where I feel comfortable practicing because of the complexity. Without a doubt immigration is a key issue for our country as we are founded upon the ideal of freedom and the right to autonomy that is lacking in many other countries and cultures.
Earlier this month the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would take up arguments regarding the controversial DACA program. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the program is designed to protect young people for deportation when they arrived in the U.S. as a child in situations outside their control. DACA does not provide a pathway for citizenship to these young men and women but it does allow them to obtain a renewable work permit as long as they remain out of trouble. The program was put in place by President Obama but ended by President Trump in the fall of 2017.
After steps were taken to end DACA, the federal courts granted injunctions to prohibit the termination of DACA and to protect these young men and women. Injunctions preventing deportation and ending of DACA have been granted as recently as May 2019.
The legal issues surrounding the ending of the program are quite interesting. DACA was ended when the Trump Administration decided that the program was created without proper statutory authority. Interestingly, the termination of the program was halted based upon lack of statutory authority as well. Additionally, even though President Trump officially ended DACA he claimed support for citizenship for children who came here with their parents under the DACA guidelines. This position also stands in stark contrast with the current activities of placing children in ICE camps at the borders separated from their parents.
IT seems that on the issue of immigration the administration at least takes the position that is likely to garner the most popularity rather than taking a consistent approach to immigration reform.
In June this year the House passed legislation that would allow the so-called DREAMER children impacted by DACA to have a path to citizenship. I expect that the high court’s decision on DACA will have a huge impact on the immigration issues that have grown to prominence over the last year or so. I expect that the children protected by DACA will be allowed to continue here in the U.S.
However, I wonder how those who haven’t had its protections yet will fair just as I often wonder about the fate of those children at the border in the camps as to whether they will ever have a true shot at freedom.
Rachel Bussett is an Oklahoma City attorney. She can be reached at 405-605-8073.