Equity & Diversity

Obama Vows to Fight Back After Federal Ruling Stalls Immigration Protections

By Corey Mitchell — February 18, 2015 2 min read
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A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s sweeping executive action on immigration, but the White House has promised to fight back.

The programs at issue are Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expansions to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program protecting undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children.

United States District Judge Andrew S. Hanen slammed the brakes on the programs, which the Obama administration saw as tools to ease longstanding concerns about separating school-aged children from their families. Hanen’s decision gave a coalition of 26 states time to pursue a lawsuit intended to permanently halt the orders.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of Obama’s staunchest opponents on immigration, said the ruling is a “major turning point in the fight to stop Obama’s lawless amnesty.”

The White House said in a statement early Tuesday that Obama’s actions are within his legal authority. The Justice Department will appeal that decision.

President Obama told reporters Tuesday that he’s confident the injunction will be overturned, and is preparing to implement the order.

“The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken,” the White House said in a statement.

In 2012, children with at least one undocumented immigrant parent accounted for nearly 7 percent of U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to a Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project report. Based on 2012 Census data, that’s more than 3.8 million students. Obama’s order did not extend any benefits to the wave of unaccompanied minors who surged across the U.S.-Mexico border during the past 18 months.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose department would be responsible for implementing the executive orders, disagrees with the judge’s decision. But Johnson said his department would comply with the injunction during the appeals process and his department will not launch the DACA expansion today, as previously scheduled.

“We are urging the hundreds of thousands of immigrants across our region that qualifies to continue to collect their documents and become prepared for the moment when this temporary decision is overturned,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa de Maryland, a Latino and immigrant advocacy group.

Obama’s decision to act last November, just weeks after the midterm election, drew the ire of congressional Republicans who immediately slammed his actions as unconstitutional. In response, GOP lawmakers have sought to tie funding for the Department of Homeland Security to killing Obama’s immigration orders.

“DACA and DAPA are among the only commonsense solutions on immigration that have emerged in the last two decades. Detractors of these programs may try to paint this as a fight with the president, but make no mistake: attempts to dismantle these programs are attacks on American families,” said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. “They are attacks on U.S. citizen spouses and children who are seeing their families torn apart because some of our lawmakers refuse to do what is necessary to fix our immigration system.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.