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U.S. Supreme Court blocks Trump bid to end 'Dreamers' immigrant program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday dealt President Donald Trump a major setback on his hardline immigration policies, blocking his bid to end a program that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants — often called “Dreamers” — who entered the United States illegally as children.

The justices on a 5-4 vote upheld lower court rulings that found that Trump’s 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, was unlawful.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in finding that the administration’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” under a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act.

The ruling means that the roughly 649,000 immigrants, mostly young Hispanic adults born in Mexico and other Latin American countries, currently enrolled in DACA will remain protected from deportation and eligible to obtain renewable two-year work permits.

The ruling does not prevent Trump from trying again to end the program. But his administration is unlikely to be able to end DACA before the Nov. 3 election in which Trump is seeking a second four-year term in office.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Roberts wrote.

The ruling marks the second time this week that Roberts has ruled against Trump in a major case following Monday’s decision finding that gay and transgender workers are protected under federal employment law.

“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump wrote on Twitter after the DACA ruling.

The court’s four other conservatives including two Trump appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, dissented.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: An effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent.

Thomas, whose dissent was joined by Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito, said DACA itself was “substantively unlawful.”

Trump’s administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he created DACA by executive action, bypassing Congress.

A collection of states including California and New York, people currently enrolled in DACA and civil rights groups all filed suit to block Trump’s plan to end the program. Lower courts in California, New York and the District of Columbia ruled against Trump and left DACA in place, finding that his move to revoke the program violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

Only one justice, liberal Sonia Sotomayor, embraced arguments made by plaintiffs that the policy may have been motivated by discriminatory bias against immigrants. Sotomayor is the court’s first Hispanic justice.

Trump has made his crackdown on legal and illegal immigration, including pursuing construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, a central part of his presidency and his 2020 re-election campaign.

DACA recipients and their supporters in Congress including House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and in the business community welcomed the ruling and called for permanent protections to be enacted.

“I feel content. I think the decision was what we deserved, but at the same time I am also thinking we still have to defend the program,” said Melody Klingenfuss, a 26-year-old DACA recipient and organizer with the California Dream Network.

Roberts a year ago also cast the decisive vote in a Supreme Court loss for the Republican president when the justices blocked Trump’s administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census that critics said was an effort to dissuade immigrants from taking part in the decennial population count. That case raised similar questions about whether Trump’s administration followed lawful procedures in a reaching policy decision.

Immigrants had to meet certain conditions to qualify for DACA enrollment such as not being convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor and being enrolled in high school or having a high school diploma or equivalent.

Government figures show that upwards of 95 percent of current enrollees were born in Latin America, including 80 percent from Mexico, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Nearly half live in California and Texas. The average age of DACA enrollees is 26.

Obama created the DACA program after Congress failed to pass bipartisan legislation that would have overhauled U.S. immigration policy and offered protections for the immigrants known as “Dreamers,” a moniker derived from the name of an immigration bill.

The young immigrants for whom the program was devised, Obama said, were raised and educated in the United States, grew up as Americans and often know little about their countries of origin. After Thursday’s ruling, Obama wrote on Twitter, “We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals.”

Photos: Goodbye Goodwin

Civil war, new country, new language, life | Vasquez overcomes it all to earn WVC degree

WENATCHEE — When 18-year-old Angelica Vasquez returned home one afternoon from one of her classes at the University of El Salvador, where she was studying to become a pediatrician, her father pulled her aside. He had something urgent that he needed to tell her.

“He said, ‘Tomorrow you’re leaving the country,’” said Vasquez, now 52, who on Friday will earn her associate’s degree from Wenatchee Valley College. “Here’s your passport and your flight ticket, you are leaving (in the) morning with your 4-year-old sister.”

El Salvador circa 1985 was already five years into a bloody civil war, and becoming too dangerous for Vasquez and her two younger siblings, Carmen and Javier. Her mother and older brother Rafael had already fled to the United States years prior — now it was their turn.

The decision to flee was not easy; it’s a grueling, perilous journey and a life-altering transition. And for Vasquez, just months removed from her high school graduation, she was essentially going to be forced to start over academically and learn a new language, new customs and a new culture.

“I cried and cried all night because being at the university was a dream of mine and I had the desire to work with special-education children,” Vasquez said. “But I got a call from my mom, who encouraged me to come and said that the United States had the best schools. That was the hook.”

Angelica and her sister Carmen flew from El Salvador to Tijuana along the U.S.-Mexico border the next day. They then began their three-day trek across the border and through the Laguna Mountains into Southern California, eventually reuniting with her family just south of Los Angeles.

Then it was time to look for employment.

“My mother had four jobs, Rafael had three, even Javier was working while going to school. I thought, how am I going to get a job?” Angelica said. “Fortunately, there was an opportunity to babysit. I didn’t know any English aside from the very basics, but I would watch Sesame Street with the kids that I’d babysit for, and so I learned with them.”

Angelica started taking ESL classes but when she re-enrolled she had to start at the eighth-grade level.

“I had to start at the bottom,” she said.

Angelica progressed. Eventually, she made it through high school, earning her GED, and started taking a few classes on the weekends at the West Los Angeles Community College in Culver City.

She got married, had two kids and became a US citizen in 1995.

But Angelica’s first marriage fizzled out after a couple of years and she was stuck trying to raise two kids as a single mom in L.A. while balancing weekend classes at the community college. She knew that she wanted to get out of expensive California, and give her kids a chance to grow up in a better neighborhood — but where to go?

Her sister Carmen moved out to Wenatchee with her husband Ramon in 2004, so not long after they got settled Angelica decided to visit. Once she saw the valley, she fell in love.

“I thought this place was amazing. I have to move here,” Angelica said. “But, I also wanted to wait until my kids were at a good age to move. I asked God if it was the right decision and to give me a sign if so.”

It didn’t take long. On the first Saturday after she returned from Wenatchee, one of her professors toward the end of the class started talking about an event that was going on in Washington state sometime in the spring. And students could go (with accommodations paid for) if they wanted to sign up. The professor handed out fliers to each of her students, including Angelica.

“I looked at the flier and it was in Wenatchee,” Vasquez said. It was the sign she had been looking for. “I just thought that was so crazy. I said I wanted to go and I bought tickets for my kids to come with me. We all came and it was Apple Blossom.”

Angelica knew Wenatchee was where she wanted to move.

In 2008, she did.

“When I decided I was going to move, I wrote a letter (of inquiry) and sent it to just about every business in the Wenatchee Valley,” Angelica said. “I had done some work in accounting and knew how to do taxes. Out of everyone, only Jackson Hewitt and Robert Turner called me back. That was my first job here in Wenatchee.”

Then one day, she saw an opening on the Wenatchee School District website for a bilingual paraprofessional at Lewis & Clark Elementary. After a year, she moved into her current position as a counseling secretary at WestSide, where she’s worked for the past decade. Angelica married Rosali Vasquez in 2013.

But Angelica still had a desire to continue with her education. Both of her kids graduated from Wenatchee High School.

“So I thought, ‘It’s my turn,’ ” Angelica said. “What pushed me the most was watching the kids and families get so excited every year at WestSide’s graduation. But I was afraid of taking the placement test until finally my daughter pushed me and said that I had to do it. So I enrolled at Wenatchee Valley College and prayed.”

Angelica just had to take a couple of math classes online, but her English was graded at a college level.

“Before I knew it, I was in — starting two years ago,” she said. “I finished my 90 credits in a year and a half and decided to enroll in the criminal justice program to better understand the kids I work with. Working at WestSide, I’ve seen teenagers struggle and the program has given me a different perspective and helped me understand the families more.”

“My mentality has changed, and if I can become a bridge between kids, their parents and school staff, I would love it. Because I have seen when everyone gets involved in a student’s academics, (the kid) wants to prove that they can do better. I owe everything I’ve accomplished to my family, who always supported me.”

Angelica is poised to graduate from WVC this Friday. But she’s not done yet. She is already enrolled at Central Washington University and plans to earn her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

“I have so much free time; I just want to volunteer and do something for the community that gave me so much,” Angelica said. “I just want to do something and make a difference.”

Mayors speak out on local marches

Updated, 3:30 p.m. Friday:

A statement by Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz about the local Black Lives Matter march on June 6 was mischaracterized in an earlier version of this story. In his written statement, Kuntz did not specifically condemn armed onlookers. This is what the mayor wrote: “To those who attended with the intent to intimidate and create conflict, your presence did not reflect the values of the Wenatchee community."

WENATCHEE — Wenatchee Valley mayors issued statements on Wednesday calling for community leaders to work together amid national tensions.

Frank Kuntz

Wenatchee mayor

Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz addressed a June 6 Black Lives Matter march and disapproved of those who attended with ill intentions. He also thanked peaceful protesters, the Wenatchee Police Department and its chief, Steve Crown.

“To those who attended with the intent to intimidate and create conflict, your presence did not reflect the values of the Wenatchee community,” Kuntz said Wednesday.

He added, “Instead of choosing to let this event deepen racial, political and economic divides, I encourage our community to connect with each other in constructive collaboration seeking to better the quality of life for everyone.”

His complete statement can be found at wenatcheewa.gov.

Jerrilea Crawford

East Wenatchee mayor

East Wenatchee Mayor Jerrilea Crawford said she’s seen and heard “signs of frustration, anger, and sadness” from her constituents and plans to speak with community leaders to find ways to bring about change and reform where needed.

“I have given a lot of thought to our current culture and I support everyone who is peacefully standing up for equality,” Crawford said.

She continued, “It would be reckless of me, as you mayor, to think that the status quo is OK. I know there is room for improvement in our valley and my words will mean nothing without action.”

Her complete statement can be found at eastwenatcheewa.gov.

Black Lives Matter marches have taken place across the nation in cities large and small, and in some instances, have devolved to riots. In response, residents in some cities have armed themselves outside businesses to prevent looting and property damage.

Douglas County Commissioner Kyle Steinburg was among the armed residents watching the June 6 march and told NCWLIFE he was there in case the march turned destructive.

Kuntz didn’t take a stance on the issue of armed bystanders in the days immediately following the march other than to note that both protesters and armed spectators were within their rights.

“We had a lot of people exercising their First Amendment right to protest and we had a lot of people exercise their right to bear arms,” Kuntz said on June 8. “Both of which are Constitutionally protected.”

Kuntz declined to provide further comment when reached by phone Wednesday.

Inslee halts some state worker raises and imposes furloughs amid coronavirus downturn

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday he’s canceling raises for more than 5,500 state workers and imposing unpaid furlough days, as Washington officials grapple with a looming budget shortfall brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Inslee’s announcement came as an official state forecast Wednesday projected a roughly $8.8 billion state-budget shortfall through 2023 — worse than previously expected.

Early estimates had projected a $7 billion shortfall in the state operating budget — which funds schools, parks, prisons and social services — through 2023. The hit is due to lower state tax collections, as businesses and society largely shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic and have since early May been gradually reopening.

The projections by the Washington Economic and Revenue Forecast Council now predict a $4.5 billion budget shortfall for the current, two-year $53.3 billion state operating budget.

Another $4.3 billion shortfall is forecast for the 2021-23 budget, which lawmakers will draft when the Legislature returns in January.

The numbers only heighten difficult choices already facing Inslee and state lawmakers as they prepare for a special legislative session to begin refashioning the budget ahead of next year’s work.

In a news conference Wednesday on the budget shortfall and the state’s coronavirus response, Inslee said the canceled pay raises and furloughs are just the start of difficult budget decisions.

“We know that we have many tough decisions ahead of us as a state, as a result of our revenues falling off a cliff,” Inslee said.

The governor and Democratic lawmakers said they are still hoping for the U.S. Congress to provide economic relief for states sometime soon, which could ease the strain.

Democrats have warned against an “all cuts” budget that slashes spending on environmental and social-services programs, like Washington’s struggling mental-health system.

“As we continue preparation for an eventual special session and the 2021 regular session, we must take a balanced approach that includes budget savings and the use of resources like the budget stabilization account and, potentially, new revenue,” Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig said Wednesday in a statement.

But Republican lawmakers point to businesses and workers already struggling during the pandemic, and say the state should avoid raising any new taxes. And many GOP lawmakers — who are in the minority in both the state House and Senate — remain frustrated that they haven’t already been called back into a session.

“The Legislature has the ultimate control over the budget, yet Gov. Inslee has chosen to keep us from stepping in — even though the executive and legislative branches are co-equal under our constitution, and we directly represent the people who have endured his response to the pandemic,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said Wednesday in a statement.

Inslee on Wednesday morning announced that government agencies under his authority would cancel a 3% scheduled wage increase for the state’s higher-paid nonunion employees.

That move stops pay raises for about 5,600 state workers. It includes directors of state agencies, as well as other management and some other nonunion employees earning more than $53,000 per year.

Meanwhile, more than 40,000 state employees will begin taking unpaid furlough days, starting no later than June 28. Those workers must take one unpaid day per week through July 25, according to the statement. After July, state workers must take one unpaid day per month through at least the fall.

“These are very difficult decisions, but they are necessary to address the financial shortfall that we are facing,” Inslee said in prepared remarks, adding later: “In this current financial situation, everyone needs to make sacrifices and we know this will not be easy. I know that our state will come out of these difficult times stronger than ever.”

Early estimates show the canceled raises and furlough days will save about $55 million across the next year.

The state’s union workers and non-represented classified employees will get their pay raises as scheduled on July 1, according to Inslee’s statement.

Inslee meanwhile urged state agencies that are not under his authority — such as the Legislature, the courts, higher-education institutions and statewide elected officials — to make similar moves. If they did, Washington would save about $91 million more, he said.