LOS ANGELES — On what was supposed to be a day of anticipation for an expansion of a program to protect more people from deportation, elected officials were joined by union leaders in Los Angeles Feb. 17 to criticize a federal judge’s ruling putting the president’s executive immigration orders on hold.
“The president’s policy rightfully focuses on hard-working people whose full participation in civic life would greatly enhance our cities’ neighborhoods and economies, and I will continue to do all I can to support it,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas issued a ruling Feb. 16 stalling Obama’s executive orders, which would protect an estimated 4 million to 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation. The first action — an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects immigrants who were brought into the United States as children — was set to take effect Feb. 18.
A companion order — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — extended deportation protection to parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents, as long as the parents have been in the country for at least five years.
In light of Hanen’s ruling, which came in response to a lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging the orders, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it will not begin accepting applications from immigrants under the expanded childhood arrivals program until further notice. The department will continue to accept applications from people who qualify under the original guidelines issued in 2012.
Outside Los Angeles City Hall, immigrants, union leaders and elected officials gathered for an event Feb. 17 that had been planned to celebrate the expected implementation of the first of the orders. But the event turned instead into a rallying cry for the judge’s order to be overturned.
“It doesn’t matter if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles. “We know that history is on our side. We know the law is on our side.”
Meanwhile, City Councilman Gil Cedillo blasted the judge’s decision, writing on his Twitter page, “Our voices won’t be silenced.”
“The president is right on immigration executive action,” he wrote, adding, “I stand with the president in keeping families together.”
Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union noted that the judge did not rule on the states’ assertion that the president’s immigration actions were unconstitutional. The judge only issued an injunction blocking their implementation while the lawsuit was pending.
“The decision is very narrow, holding only that the federal government may have failed to follow procedural requirements before implementing” the orders, said Cecilia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, however, hailed the judge’s action.
“We live in a nation governed by a system of checks and balances, and the president’s attempt to bypass the will of the American people was successfully checked today,” Abbott said.
The White House announced that it plans to appeal the ruling.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, said he was still confident the immigration orders would be ultimately upheld.
“Round one is in. But one round doesn’t make a fight,” Becerra said.
“Immigrant families are accustomed to the tough fight. We’ll get up tomorrow, push hard, stay strong and put our faith in the Constitution. Mark my words: The human spirit will prevail.”
Gov. Jerry Brown said California “stands firmly with the White House. Further delay will not fix our broken immigration system.”
County Supervisor Hilda Solis issued a statement in which she also supported the president’s position.
“We believe the White House is on solid legal as well as moral ground in using its executive authority to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrant families, who already live here and contribute to our society, from deportation,” Solis said.
She urged community leaders to continue to prepare those who will need assistance to get ready and to apply for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon expressed disappointment with the Texas court ruling.
“Hard-working families across this country are suffering under the ever present threat of deportation hampering their ability to fully contribute to our economy and crippling trust with law enforcement,” he said. The president’s actions provide modest relief, but in the absence of Congressional leadership, [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans] are indeed necessary.
“I hope that the courts will ultimately side with law enforcement leaders, state and local officials, and legal scholars who agree that the president’s executive actions follow legal precedent and are good policy.”