Immigration Reform is Still Pending
Last November, President Obama issued an executive order to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that would provide protection for up to 5 million undocumented immigrants by expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to include additional immigrants. The new program, entitled Deferred Action for Parents of Americans or Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) provides qualifying immigrants protection from removal from the United States. Qualifying applicants are individuals who have U.S. citizen children, and have been present in the United States since January 1, 2015. The protective status does not grant residency or citizenship, but rather it protects the individual from deportation for a period or three years rather than two, as was the time period under the DACA program. Individuals that qualify under DACA or DAPA are granted work authorization and can obtain a driver’s license in the state where they reside. United State Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) was to begin processing these applications on February 18, 2015.
Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, along with 26 other states, filed suit alleging that implementation of the program would cause the State of Texas irreparable harm due to the cost of issuing drivers licenses to the qualified immigrants under DACA and DAPA. On February 16, 2015, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction that prevented the implementation of the new program while he reviewed the merits of the case. The issue on review is the legality of Obama’s order, coming from the Executive Branch. The Plaintiff’s position is that while the Department of Homeland Security has the right to allocate their funds and exercise their right to deport undocumented immigrants as they choose, they are not permitted to create a protected status of individuals. They argue that Congress alone has the right to create immigrants’ statuses.
The matter was heard again before Judge Hanen on March 19, 2015. Judge Hanen suggested that he could order sanctions against the Justice Department if the administration of the order had begun prematurely. The Department of Justice was asked to explain 108,081 reprieves that were not stopped by the injunction but issued under the 2012 laws. Hanen has yet to make the ruling and USCIS is not accepting applications for the expanded DACA or DAPA programs until the ruling is made.
While Illinois is participating in the suit, other Plaintiff’s include representatives Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.