By Michael Nam
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey made waves when he quietly joined the governors of Texas, Louisiana and South Dakota in a legal brief to challenge Pres. Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The governor’s stealthy action, when discovered, provoked outrage among immigrant activists for its disregard of the humanitarian cost of such a delaying tactic.
The legal brief on behalf of a lawsuit seeks an injunction from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs. It questions “whether the President can unilaterally legalize the presence of millions of people and unilaterally give them myriad legal benefits, including work permits, Medicare, Social Security, and tax credits.”
Blocking efforts to help families with mixed documentation statuses seems a far cry from Christie’s position in 2014 when he signed the N.J. DREAM Act providing in-state tuition for the state’s undocumented children.
“[O]ur job, I believe, as a government, is to give every one of these children, who we have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, an opportunity to maximize that investment,”said the governor during the signing ceremony.
New Jersey immigrant activists have grown skeptical of his belief in that investment. “Regarding Governor Christie’s recent announcement it is my honest opinion that it is self-serving,” Leticia Fraga told DiversityInc regarding his recent legal action. “He has his sights on a presidential campaign and is pandering to his conservative base.”
Whether his intentions are motivated by political ambitions or a sincere disagreement with Pres. Obama’s authority, it doesn’t change the damage such delaying actions have on families with varying documentation statuses, particularly children in the Latino community.
A study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior suggests that children of undocumented mothers are likelier “to experience behavior problems that have implications for their life chances (e.g., via performance in school).”
Activists have also recorded issues with PTSD and anxiety in immigrant children.
While the majority of the estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are alleged to be Latino in origin, there is disproportionate enforcement of immigration law on Latino communities in the form of deportations, as can be interpretedfrom the Pew Research Center data.
This can promote fear among Latino families of being split up by current policies or even discourage them from protecting themselves.
‘Ultimately, the longer we wait to do anything and the longer we wait to support these kinds of programs like DAPA and DACA in New Jersey, the longer the issue continues to be a problem for everyone,” Johanna Calle of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice said to DiversityInc. “Just from a community safety issue, as long as immigrant communities are living in the shadows they are less likely to cooperate with police when they witness a crime or become victims of crime. Children are more likely to be left alone because their parents were deported.”
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey’s 12th congressional district also expressed concern over the governor’s actions .
“More than 200,000 children and parents in New Jersey would directly benefit from the ability to learn, work, and contribute here in the U.S. It seems that Christie would rather join Republican fear mongering than encourage his GOP colleagues to address immigration head on, depriving these individuals of their chance to earn the American Dream,” Rep. Watson Coleman said in a statement.
Gov. Christie had yet to address the legal brief at the time of publication.