No change, no hope, says Texas judge — but he doesn’t have the final word on immigration

© dule964 - Fotolia.com gavel

© dule964 – Fotolia.com gavel

On February 17, Texas federal district court judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction to stop immigration changes. That’s an order saying the government may not proceed with expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA). The order is one of the very early steps in the lawsuit against the federal government by 26 states. These states want to overturn President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

DACA: The order does not affect people who already have DACA status. It does affect immigrants older than 30 who could qualify for DACA under the expanded program. They were supposed to be able to apply for protection from deportation and work permits beginning today, February 18. Vox says that is about 290,000 people. Immigrants who are under 30 and qualify for DACA because they came to the United States as children and meet the various other DACA criteria can still apply. The court ruling affects expanded DACA, but not original DACA.

DAPA? DACA? What’s this? 

Original DACA is the program, established by Obama’s executive action in 2012, which gives temporary protection from deportation and work permits to many young people who were brought to this country as children before 2010 and who were 15-31 years old on June 15, 2012. More info hereExpanded DACA, announced by the Obama in November 2014, lifts the age limits for application, though the person still needs to meet the “brought here as a child” definition.

DAPA would give protection from deportation and work permits to parents of U.S. citizens who are present in the U.S. and have lived here continuously since January 1, 2010. More info here.

DAPA: The DAPA program would grant temporary status to undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and green card holders. The judge’s order puts DAPA on hold for now. That means no protection from deportation and work permits for an estimated 3.7 million people — for now.

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What next? The Obama administration will appeal the preliminary injunction and is fighting the underlying lawsuit.

Vox is becoming my favorite news site. Its explanations are accurate and written in easy-to-understand language. So I recommend Dara Lind’s article, A federal judge just put the brakes on Obama’s immigration actions, and also Vox’s card stack explaining Obama’s immigration orders.

Beyond the legal battles, Lind also notes the threat to success posed by all of the court fights and propaganda:

“When the administration created the first deferred-action program in 2012, for young unauthorized immigrants, they discovered the success of the program relied on people signing up — and on the ground, organizers learned that finding eligible immigrants and getting them to apply was the hardest part. Now, community groups are trying to educate a much larger, more diffuse immigrant population about the new deferred-action programs, and persuade them that it’s safe to apply. But news and misinformation about the lawsuit is spreading confusion and fear among the very people these groups are trying to reach.

“Organizers are worried about a ‘chilling effect’: by the time applications do open for deferred action, immigrants will have been intimidated out of applying, because they won’t believe the program is safe or permanent.”

The American Immigration Council also has good coverage of the ongoing battle, reminding readers that the preliminary injunction leaves part of Obama’s November 2014 orders in place. That part is the order establishing immigration enforcement priorities.

“This memo establishes a department-wide set of priorities that focus on the removal of individuals who pose threats to “national security, public safety, and border security.” It went into effect on January 5, 2015. Virtually every person who is eligible for expanded DACA and DAPA will not qualify as an enforcement priority and will be a strong candidate for the favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion, should they come into contact with immigration enforcement officers.”

For an in-depth look at what DACA and DAPA mean, take a look at Geoffrey Heeren’s article, “The Status of Nonstatus,” in the American University Law Review. From the abstract:

“The Obama Administration’s ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ (DACA) and ‘Deferred Action for Parental Accountability’ (DAPA) programs are the most recent and largest categories of nonstatus, but there are many others: parole, administrative closure, supervision, Deferred Enforced Departure, and Stays of Removal. What these categories have in common is that they are discretionary, unreviewable, weakly described by positive law, and officially temporary, although persons often live for years or even lifetimes in the purgatory of nonstatus. They occupy a paradoxical middle ground between legality and illegality, loosely tethered to this country by humanitarian concern or prosecutorial discretion. Those with nonstatus have fewer rights and remedies than those with immigration status. At the same time, they must register, disclose biographic data, be fingerprinted, and regularly update their address. Yet nonstatus is not just a government surveillance program; it is the only way for many persons to claim some measure of dignity and legitimacy from a society that places a strong stigma on unauthorized migrants.”

Millions of immigrants languish in this “nonstatus” purgatory for years on end. It’s long past time for Congress to act responsibly to create a path to legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship.

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