It's back to square one – at least for now – for the millions of undocumented parents of U.S.-born children hoping for immigration relief from President Obama’s executive orders, as a Texas judge placed a temporary injunction on their implementation on Monday night.
The key order that thousands of eligible undocumented Irish parents were pinning their hopes on is known as DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. DAPA would allow an undocumented resident who is parent to a U.S.-born citizen to apply for deferred action and work authorization provided the applicant has lived continuously in the U.S. since January 1, 2010, and that the citizen child was born on or before November 20, 2014. The application period for DAPA was on track to begin in May.
Federal judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, ruled that 26 states suing the Obama administration over the executive orders can have their cases heard in court, and until such time, no further action can be taken on the orders. An expanded version of an earlier Obama order, DACA, or deferred action for childhood arrivals, was due to be implemented this week.
“The DHS was not given any ‘discretion by law’ to give 4.3 million removable aliens what the DHS itself labels as ‘legal presence,’ ” Hanen wrote in issuing an injunction.
“In fact, the law mandates that these illegally-present individuals be removed. The DHS has adopted a new rule that substantially changes both the status and employability of millions. These changes go beyond mere enforcement or even non-enforcement of this nation’s immigration scheme.”
The White House and Department of Homeland Security have vowed to fight Hanen’s ruling.
“The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and even other courts have said that our actions are well within our legal authority. Our actions will also benefit the economy and promote law enforcement. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.
Republican leaders in Congress who have attempted to derail the executive orders in a bill which funds the Department of Homeland Security only if the orders are abolished were further emboldened by Hanen’s injunction.
“This ruling underscores what the president has already acknowledged publicly 22 times: He doesn’t have the authority to take the kinds of actions he once referred to as ‘ignoring the law’ and ‘unwise and unfair,’” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said in a statement.
“Senate Democrats — especially those who’ve voiced opposition to the president’s executive overreach — should end their partisan filibuster of Department of Homeland Security funding.”
Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York, expressed disappointment over Hanen’s ruling.
“This unfortunate decision is a temporary setback and will only slow down the implementation of these programs. It should not deter those who qualify under these programs from gathering the necessary documents and information and remain in the United States in anticipation of further more favorable developments in the coming months. Potential applicants should secure reliable advice from qualified immigration counsel and beware of immigration scams,” a statement from the Emerald Isle said.
One long-time undocumented Irish resident who was hoping to avail of DAPA, “K” from Northern Ireland, is saddened and frustrated by the latest turn of events.
“I knew I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up and I was right,” said K, who has lived in New York for 14 years and has two kids.
“At this point I don’t know what we are going to do. We were looking forward to a summer of relief. Now it looks like it’s going to be the same old same old, all over again.”