U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) says educational outreach around President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration will press ahead, despite a federal judge's ruling on Monday that temporarily stalled the administration's deportation relief plans.
The Obama administration is expected to appeal the judge's ruling, which comes in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of 26 mostly Republican-run states seeking to stop the president's immigration directives. Illinois has not joined the lawsuit, which claims the two immigration executive orders signed by Obama in November are unconstitutional. The federal judge, Andrew Hanen of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, determined that the states met the minimum requirements needed to proceed with the lawsuit.
Hanen's temporary injunction blocks Obama's two new immigration programs from taking effect before the case is decided. The application process for one of the new immigration policies was slated to launch Wednesday.
At a Tuesday morning press conference in Chicago, Gutierrez and leaders with SEIU* and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) called the judge's decision a "temporary setback" that won't derail their efforts to help immigrants prepare for administrative relief.
"This process can be delayed, but we as a community will not be deterred," Gutierrez said, adding that he believes Obama's new immigration policies will ultimately prevail after the legal process plays out. "Let's make it absolutely clear that the president's actions are well established in legal precedent."
The latest roadblock in the fight for immigration reform was unsurprising to Gutierrez and the immigrant advocates. That's because the states named in the lawsuit "shopped for the most conservative anti-Obama judge they could find, and they got the decision they were shopping for," Gutierrez said.
"Eventually we will win," the congressman added. "This decision will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit [Court of Appeals], and I fully expect that when it arrives there" that it will be overturned.
The president's executive actions seek to create a Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program, allowing temporary relief from deportation for qualified undocumented parents of children with U.S. legal status who have resided in the country for at least five years. Additionally, Obama's administrative relief extends deferred action to additional undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, but were too old to qualify for the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
As many as five million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including up to 280,000 in Illinois, could be covered by the executive orders, according to ICIRR. The federal government was scheduled to begin accepting applications on Wednesday for the expanded DACA program and in May for the DAPA initiative.
Gutierrez and officials with ICIRR and SEIU will not be suspending their various educational campaigns and workshops around the executive orders in light of the judge's ruling.
"We know thousands of Illinois immigrants who grew up in the country were looking forward [to applying tomorrow]," said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR's CEO. "A single judge temporarily blocked this, but ... we expect that this is a temporary setback, and we're going to continue to organize."
Illinois' new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, meanwhile, has expressed support for Obama's executive orders. Rauner's response to the president's immigration directives, along with the fact that Illinois is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit to block them, "speaks to the possibility of working together" on issues important to the immigrant community, noted Gutierrez, who said he plans to schedule a meeting with the governor on the matter.
Hanen's order also comes amid a Congressional fight over immigration and a Department of Homeland Security Funding bill.
Last month, the GOP-led House passed a DHS funding bill that would block Obama's new immigration policies and end the DACA program. Since then, Senate Republicans have tried to take up a similar DHS funding measure with immigration riders, but their efforts have been blocked multiple times by Democrats.
If Congress does not pass a bill to fund DHS by February 27-- when the department's current funding runs out -- some 30,000 workers, including many from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), would have to be furloughed, according to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Gutierrez said the ongoing Republican-led efforts to roll back or stall progress on immigration reform show "just how mean and xenophobic you can be to risk and to put in jeopardy the political future that you have as a national party."
"These actions are going to have a huge detrimental effect" on the Republican Party in 2016, he stressed.
Here's more from Gutierrez, Benito and SEIU Local 1 Secretary-Treasurer Laura Garza:
Tuesday's press conference, held at the downtown offices of SEIU Local 1, was one of many events taking place across the country as part of a national day of action on immigration.
SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Saenz warned members of the Republican Party that the immigrant community "will remember" their words and actions.
"We are mobilizing," she stressed. "We are organizing, and we're determined that we're going to see justice for the immigrant families."
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