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Federal Judge Puts Temporary Halt to Expanded Immigration Programs

Only a few days before hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions, of undocumented immigrants would have become eligible to apply under the expansion of certain immigration programs, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction that prevents the federal government from processing applications. The injunction was issued as part of a lawsuit in which 26 states sued the federal government, alleging that President Obama’s expansion of existing immigration programs would cause them significant and irreparable economic harm by having to expend tax dollars to accommodate undocumented immigrants.

Last fall, President Obama issued an executive order allowing for the creation of a new immigration program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), as well as an expansion of an existing program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Under the DACA program, young people who came to the US as children could apply for a status known as “deferred action.” Under this status, immigrants who entered the country before June 2007 and before their 16th birthday could obtain work permits and exemptions from deportation lasting for two years. Applicants must also be under age 31. The expansion of DACA would eliminate the age-31 requirement and move the 2007 cutoff to 2010.

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government issued 962,000 DACA permits as of Dec. 31, while denying the permits to another 55,000 applicants. Applicants could have applied for deferred status under the expanded DACA on Feb. 18 if the federal court had not issued its Feb. 16 injunction.

The DAPA program would have begun this spring, and it would have covered undocumented immigrants who have been in the country since 2010 or earlier and have a child who is a citizen or permanent resident, a group numbering roughly four million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Judge Andrew Hanan ruled that the federal government had not followed the rules of the Administrative Procedures Act in initiating the DAPA program. The executive action was, in the judge’s opinion, “a substantive change to immigration policy” that amounted to, “in effect, a new law.” The federal government contended that DAPA and the expanded DACA were merely an exercise of prosecutorial discretion regarding whom to deport, a power that courts have consistently upheld. Judge Hanan disagreed, determining that the government was not exercising discretion, but rather had abdicated its legal responsibility to enforce immigration laws. The authority granted to the executive branch did not give the Department of Homeland Security the power to “enact a program whereby it not only ignores the dictates of Congress, but actively acts to thwart them.”

Many involved in immigration matters encouraged undocumented immigrants to continue moving forward. “We’ve hit a speed bump on the road to the implementation of these programs, but folks should stay the course, get their documents ready, prepare to apply, because the programs will open their doors eventually,” Karen Tumlin, Managing Attorney of the National Immigration Law Center, told CNN.

The rules affecting undocumented immigrants are in a state of uncertainty currently. One way to be sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information on the rules that affect your family is to work with knowledgeable immigration attorneys. For advice and representation in your family can depend on, consult the Florida immigration attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Our attorneys can help you understand the law and make sure you are ready to take advantage of all the programs that can help you.

Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule a consultation.

More blog posts:

New Agency in Miami-Dade Using Lure of Immigration to Draw Investors to Area, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Jan. 8, 2015

E-2 Investor Visas for Israel Are (Finally) On Their Way, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, April 8, 2014


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