President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration experienced another setback Tuesday after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the administration's request for an emergency stay of an injunction that has stalled the programs.
The temporary injunction blocking Obama's two new immigration programs from taking effect was issued by a federal judge in Texas back in February. That ruling from Judge Andrew Hanen of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas came in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of 26 mostly Republican-run states seeking to stop the president's immigration directives. Hanen determined that the states met the minimum requirements needed to proceed with the lawsuit.
In its 2-1 decision Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit appeals panel said it believes the administration would not be harmed if the new immigration programs were delayed longer while the issue works its way through the courts.
The Obama administration is appealing Hanen's larger decision to the Fifth Circuit Court, with oral arguments set to begin July 6. A new Fifth Circuit panel of judges may hear that case.
One of the two programs under Obama's executive actions, the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, was scheduled to launch in February. Obama's November executive orders also call for a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, slated to begin this month.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) had this to say in response to today's court decision:
It is disappointing but not unexpected given the make-up of the Fifth Circuit and the panel hearing this preliminary case. I am confident millions of immigrants will eventually apply for DAPA and DACA, because the law is undeniably on the President's side, as is public opinion. Meanwhile, I continue to work with Democrats and others who are preparing immigrant communities for the application process once the legal maneuvering is resolved and the courts reject the arguments of the Republican Governors and Attorneys General. The longer the court process takes, the harder it is to imagine a Republican candidate remains competitive in a bid for the White House, because increasingly, this will be the defining and decisive 2016 campaign issue.
Despite the appeals court ruling, Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director at the Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center, said her group ultimately "believes that the president's program has solid legal footing and that the U.S. legal system is strong enough to withstand politically motivated anti-immigrant attacks."
"We have faith that ultimately the DACA expansion and DAPA will not be stopped by one Texas judge who has repeatedly mischaracterized immigration law and failed to grasp the reality of immigration in our country," she said in a statement.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights also issued a statement about the court decision, saying that the immigrant community should continue to get ready for administrative relief:
While we are confident that in the end the President's executive order will prevail, ICIRR is disappointed with today's ruling by the three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves only to delay needed protections for the thousands of undocumented immigrants with strong ties to this country and who only wish to move forward with their lives. Indeed, helping this hardworking group of immigrants would benefit the nation as well, with the 200,000 immigrants potentially eligible for DAPA and expanded DACA contributing $347 million increase in tax revenues for Illinois over five years if their status were ensured.
This case, brought by a highly partisan group of governors and state attorneys general, is not over. We urge the Justice Department to act quickly on the next steps, including an appeal of today's decision as well as the pending appeal of the original court order blocking DAPA and expanded DACA that is set for argument in early July.
In the meantime, we urge immigrant families and communities to continue to prepare for immigration relief: stay informed, gather documents, and seek expert advice from lawyers and qualified paralegals at nonprofit organizations. More about DAPA and DACA, including lists of potentially helpful documents and dates and locations of information sessions, can be found at the Illinois is Ready campaign website, www.ilisready.org, and through ICIRR's Family Support Hotline, 855-HELP-MY-FAMILY (855-435-7693).
Successful implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA will rely on a strong infrastructure engaging organizations based in and trusted by immigrant communities. To this end we remain hopeful that Governor Rauner will preserve funding for immigrant services recognizing that these funds are in fact an investment in immigrant communities which pays off in greater economic growth and tax revenue for our entire state.