By Minal Singh
Northwest Asian Weekly
Immigration reform is delayed while Texas prepares to battle the executive order against federal courts.
On Nov. 20, President Obama announced an executive action on immigration reform. On Feb. 15, in the case of Texas vs the United States, a Texas District Court obtained a temporary injunction to halt further progress on the President’s immigration reform.
This means that the applications for the revised Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will not be available this week as expected. The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program may be affected as well.
“Department of Homeland Security will not start accepting applications tomorrow. They are not setting a date for when those applications will be available,” said Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council in a Feb. 17 press briefing.
This news has raised a response of protest among communities who care about pathways to citizenship.
The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the largest and oldest Asian American civil rights organization in the nation, expresses disappointment with the recent ruling in Texas, et al v. United States.
Priscilla Ouchida, Executive Director, said, “I am disappointed by the decision of the Court to [delay] the DACA and DAPA initiatives. JACL supports efforts to move past this suspension that will interrupt the implementation of much-needed policies to ensure family stability and economic growth.”
According to JACL, approximately 1.3 million people in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community do not have documents. Nearly half that number would be eligible to benefit from Obama’s Nov. 20 immigration order.
“We are deeply disappointed to see a Court blocking a program that is well within the bounds of the President’s executive authority,” said Kathy Ko Chin, President and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. “This is yet another example of politics interfering in sound law and policy and one we hope will be swiftly overturned.”
Munoz concurs: “When district courts make decisions like this, it often gets appealed later. We expect to prevail legally.” It is important to understand that this case won by the Texas District Court is under state jurisdiction. Now, the case will be appealed at the national level.
Anyone applying to the current DACA program will not be affected, and in the meantime, those looking to apply to either the expanded DACA or DAPA should continue collecting documentation, identification and other paperwork needed for the application.
“When people are fearful when it comes to applying for DAPA, the President says to take inspiration from your children. These are young people who are willing to come forward. It is our hope that our reforms to the DACA/DAPA programs will continue this inspiration. At the end of the day, we hope to prevail legally,” Muñoz said.
According to Muñoz, “Nov. 20 enforcement priorities remain in place—And the law will be implemented in this way.” This means that out of the 11 million people that currently live in the United States illegally, only enough government dollars are budgeted to deport a small percentage of that group. The executive order of Nov. 20 is meant to focus specifically on those people who have recently crossed the border or have a criminal history.
“People who have established roots in this country are clearly a low priority for law enforcement,” said Muñoz.
The Washington State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, authored the brief filed in support of the President’s order against the state of Texas.
“I am disappointed in the District Court’s decision to halt needed immigration reform,” Ferguson said. “Washington and other states have a strong interest in reforms that will improve public safety and strengthen our economies. Delay will hurt our communities and punish hard-working, tax-paying immigrants and their families.”
“The Justice Department has indicated that it intends to appeal this ruling, and we look forward to leading the coalition of states in support of the administration’s position. This case has just begun,” said Ferguson. (end)
Keep up to date on the latest information about changes to immigration policy, by visiting the official government website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at http://www.uscis.gov/executive-actions-immigration/executive-actions-immigration-resources. Flyers are available in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.
You can subscribe to receive email updates from USCIS when more information is available on their website.
Minal Singh can be reached at email@example.com.