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Yesterday, Senate Republicans filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, expressing opposition to two Obama Administration immigration policies: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was first created in 2012 but revised in 2014.
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) was one of a handful of Republicans who declined to sign on to the brief. Those eleven senators are currently locked in tough reelection battles this year, or live in states with a large number of Latino voters.
It would be a mistake to see Portman’s absence from the brief as a positive sign, however. The New York Times reports that Senator Portman continues to oppose these policies, policies which would help his own constituents:
Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Mr. Portman, said, “Senator Portman believes the president’s unilateral executive action on immigration violated federal law and exceeded his authority under the Constitution and trusts that Supreme Court will affirm the decision of the Fifth Circuit striking it down.”
So why didn’t Portman sign on to the brief? Surprise, surprise, it’s all about politics. Senator Portman wants the plausible deniability of not being listed on the brief, while still making it clear that he opposes the policies.
This wouldn’t be the first time Senator Portman played games on immigration. He’s actually quite talented at dancing the old Washington two-step, and thinks Ohio voters are too dumb to catch on.
But this isn’t about Senator Portman. It’s about the Ohioans who are being harmed by Portman, Attorney General Mike DeWine (who signed on in support of the lawsuit), and Governor John Kasich (who agrees with DeWine’s decision). Ohio Republicans are literally suing Ohio families, and taking their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By definition, the people eligible for DAPA have U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children. I can’t think of a more obvious example of someone who has a stake in America than people whose children are literally Americans. These hardworking men and women pay taxes. They buy cars and homes. They contribute to our economy and society in numerous ways. Yet, Portman, DeWine, and Kasich would rather keep them “in their place” than allow them a shot at a piece of paper that could transform their lives.
There are approximately 35,000 Ohioans eligible to apply for DAPA or DACA once the Republican lawsuit is ended. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, they pay nearly $35 million in state and local taxes in Ohio every year, and that figure would grow by nearly $10 million if they can finally obtain a legal work permit.
These figures represent just a fraction of the undocumented immigrants living in and contributing to Ohio today. Currently, undocumented immigrants pay nearly $90 million in state and local taxes annually. If Congress were to pass full immigration reform, such as the bill Senator Portman opposed, that figure would grow by nearly $26 million annually.
Portman is playing Washington games, but those games are not fun. They have real consequences for everyday Ohioans. When the Supreme Court finally rules on behalf of Ohio and other American families, we’ll remember where Portman and the others stood.