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In Tucson, Supreme Court immigration decision will come down to families

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In Tucson, Supreme Court immigration decision will come down to families

  • Rosa Robles Loreto and Karla Neyoy at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comRosa Robles Loreto and Karla Neyoy at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson.

With the fate of President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court's eight justices following oral arguments Monday, advocates in Tucson urged the court to overturn a lower court's decision and allow two deferred action programs to move forward — a move that could protect millions of immigration from deportation, including around 136,000 in Arizona. 

For Karla Neyoy Ruiz and Rosa Robles Loreto, a decision in favor of the Obama administration would mean a chance to seek legal protection and remain in the country with their families. 

Neyoy Ruiz would seek protection because she is the mother of two U.S. citizen children, while Robles Loreto would be able to get protection for her entire family, including her husband and her two sons, both born in Mexico. 

Neither woman has legal residency or citizenship, and in the last two years, both women have faced the possibility that their families would be cleaved apart by immigration authorities and a grinding court system. 

For Neyoy, it was months of worry about her husband Daniel, who was nearly deported in 2014, but was saved by a last-minute stay from immigration authorities after he went into sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson.

Last June, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted him a second year-long stay, but Karla Neyoy doesn't have the same protection. 

"There's always a little fear," Neyoy said in Spanish. "I just don't have the same protections that Daniel has, so there's always a chance that we could run into trouble." 

Neyoy also said that the family continues to struggle financially following the family's fight to keep her husband in the country and he still struggles to find enough work after losing his job in 2014.

"We just want to live a normal life in the United States," Neyoy said. 

For Robles Loreto, the church is a place of peace and support, but also a reminder of the 461 days she spent in sanctuary there in order to avoid an expired order of deportation.

"These people are so great, but being here is difficult for me," Robles Loreto said in Spanish. "I just have so many memories, but all I want to do is see my boys play baseball and live." 

Both women, speaking Monday at the church, said they hope that the high court decides in favor of the Obama administration. 

Nearly 17 months ago, during a televised address, the president announced he was expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and creating a second program — known as DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — that would allow parents to seek their own work permits and protection from deportation.

Following the announcement, officials with Texas and 25 other states, including Arizona, filed a lawsuit arguing that Obama's actions would cost states millions, and that White House officials violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal regulations are made and guides public input. 

In February 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen heard the case, and issued a last-minute injunction halting the programs. Federal officials appealed, but a three-judge panel agreed with Hanen and left the injunction in place, a decision that could keep the Obama administration from implementing the program before November's presidential election. 

That left both women, their families, and thousands of mixed families containing both legal and unauthorized immigrants in a legal limbo. 

Southside Presbyterian's pastor, Rev. Alison Harrington, urged the Supreme Court justices to protect the president's authority to hold off on some deportations and pressed the Obama administration to go further, and stop other deportations. 

"Families belong together," Harrington said Monday, adding that deportations "threatens the very heart of our communities."

Arizona has a reputation for nativism, but the state is also the birthplace of a grassroots community organization that protects immigrants, Harrington said. 

"We have a moral, ethical choice to protect families and it's sinful to try to separate them," Harrington said. 

Southside Presbyterian was one of more than two dozen religious groups, including four in Arizona, that signed an amicus brief, arguing that the court should allow DACA and DAPA to move forward. Overall, more than 1,000 individuals and organizations signed onto 19 briefs supporting the White House's policies. 

This includes a brief signed by the Major Chiefs Association, which includes signatures from Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, and Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, as well as briefs from members of Congress, advocates, former officials with the Department of Homeland Security, and three women currently held at an immigration facility in Texas.  

Maricopa County Sherif Joe Arpaio submitted his own brief against the Obama administration—in January the court rejected his own separate challenge. 

Arpaio was joined by Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who voted in March to issue their own challenge against DAPA and DACA. 

House Democrats issued their own brief along with 39 Senators in support of the White House. 

While the Supreme Court justices consider the case, Isabel Garcia, an advocate and defense lawyer, said that public pressure was important. "Cases can be decided because of a public response," Garcia said.

"I'm hopeful," said Neyoy Ruiz. "I'm hopeful that we can win and the court will decide to help our families. I'm hopeful that I can leave the shadows." 

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