Federal Order Stalls Reform Process

DACA delayedJust one day before USCIS was to begin accepting applications for the president’s expanded DACA proposal put forth last fall, a federal judge ordered a halt to the programs.

A federal judge’s last-minute order to halt President Obama’s immigration reform programs has delayed the application process that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and deportation protection beginning on February 18. The judge’s ruling, issued on February 16, comes in response to a 26-state challenge to the president’s November executive order on immigration reform.

In the ruling, issued by Andrew S. Hanen of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the judge cited the president’s programs as an overwhelming burden on state resources. Judge Hanen ruled the program would not only strain state budgets, but that the president’s broad assertion of executive power didn’t follow the required procedures for changing federal rules.

The initial step under the president’s executive action was to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because the executive branch is obligated to abide by the federal judge’s ruling, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has delayed the application process rollout for the expanded DACA permissions and protections.

In his response to Judge Hanen’s ruling, the president vowed to appeal. Expressing confidence that higher courts will find in his favor, the president said, “The law is on our side, and history is on our side.” In the meantime, according to the New York Times, the White House continues preparations needed to put the president’s executive actions into effect. Even so, USCIS won’t begin accepting applications from undocumented immigrants until the legal case is settled—a process that could take months.

For now, President Obama has turned back to Republican lawmakers, urging a return to negotiations on the overhaul of immigration laws. Additionally, officials with the Justice Department are reviewing options—whether to file a petition requesting an appeals court block Judge Haren’s ruling and allow the executive actions to move forward.

“We should not be tearing some mom away from her child when the child has been born here and that mom has been living here the last 10 years minding her own business and being an important part of the community,” the president said.

On the other side of the argument, Greg Abbott, the Texas governor who filed the lawsuit when he was the state’s attorney general, called Judge Haren’s injunction a victory for the rule of law. “Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the president’s overreach in its tracks,” Gov. Abbott said.