Judge Andrew Hanen, a federal judge in South Texas, temporarily blocked President Obama’s executive actions on immigration this past Monday, February 16. The lawsuit was brought by 26 states and Judge Hanen ruled that the President lacked the authority to carry out the initiatives announced on November 20, 2014. The judge’s ruling is very narrow and based on procedural grounds rather than constitutional grounds, noting the usual notice was not posted allowing time for comment to the proposed program.
The White House indicated early on Tuesday that it will appeal the decision as it believes the initiative is legally justified as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion since USCIS lacks the funding to deport the 12 million people estimated to be in the U.S. illegally. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, said “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 the commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.”
The President’s initiatives allow for the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The ruling does not affect existing DACA applications. Those who are eligible under the 2012 guidelines may continue to file new applications and renewals. It should be noted that the court’s order does not affect the enforcement priorities set out in the November 20, 2014 guidelines and those guidelines will be implemented when processing DACA filings.
Ultimately, the American Immigration Lawyers Association believes that the government will prevail and that DAPA and new DACA guidelines will be implemented. For those who are eligible under the new guidelines, begin gathering your documents and meet with immigration counsel to determine whether this type of filing is recommended, especially in light of the new enforcement priorities.