Immigration relief after Texas v. United States : What now? This fact sheet is prepared by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. working to fight for civil and human rights and empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to participate in democracy.
On February 16, 2015, a federal court ruled in Texas v. United States to delay the implementation of President Barack Obama’s immigration relief programs. On November 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision.
What was this lawsuit about?
The lawsuit was filed in December 2014 to stop the president’s immigration relief programs, which he issued through executive action after Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Twenty-six attorney generals and governors filed the lawsuit to challenge the president’s authority to provide work authorizations to more than 5 million immigrants. Legal precedent indicates that the president acted within his legal authority to provide this relief. President Obama believes “the law is on our side and history is on our side.”
How did the lower courts rule?
In February 2015, a federal district court judge in Texas temporarily blocked the president’s immigration relief programs.1 This decision is temporary. In November 2015, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision and the program at issue will remain on hold for now.
What programs are on hold because of the legal challenge?
There are two:
Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Expanded DACA): In June 2012, the government announced a discretionary government program policy (DACA) that gives certain undocumented immigrants a two-year temporary protection from deportation, and the ability to legally work in the U.S., if they came here before the age of 16, were present in the United States on June 15, 2007, under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and meet other eligibility criteria. In November 2014, the government eliminated the age cap of 31 on the program, decided to issue three-year work permits and updated the date that individuals needed to be present in the U.S.to January 1, 2010, from the previously- established (DACA) program.
Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA): In November 2014, the government announced this program to protect the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from deportation and give them work authorization.
(Among other findings, the district court held that the government bypassed the regulatory process required under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), to provide notice in a publication called the Federal Register as well as an opportunity for people to submit comments about the programs in writing.)
What programs are still moving forward?
The original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), announced in June 2012, is unaffected and will continue. In addition, the new civil immigration enforcement priorities instituted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), remain in place. Individuals in removal proceedings or those facing imminent deportation, who think they do not meet the civil enforcement priorities, can continue to request the government not to put them in removal proceedings because they are not a priority for deportation. If they are in proceedings, they can request the government to close their case.
This means the government would choose not to put as many individuals into removal proceedings because they are not a priority for deportation, and receive prosecutorial discretion, meaning such as a stay of removal from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Why does this decision matter to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs)?
Nearly 500,000 AAPIs stand to benefit from all existing deferred action programs. Both expanded DACA and DAPA would provide deportation relief and work authorization for eligible immigrants, which in some states, would allow undocumented immigrants to have a driver’s license, receive health care, open a bank account and receive in-state tuition. These programs would allow our families to stay together and not live in fear.
The Department of Justice is appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the ongoing delay is deeply disappointing, we are confident the president and his programs will prevail.
When will expanded DACA or DAPA become available for eligible immigrants?
Sadly, we don’t know. Advancing Justice | AAJC will monitor the situation. We hope this delay is temporary and it will move to the Supreme Court quickly so immigrants can receive the relief they fought hard to win.
What can I do?
Do not let this court decision deter you. The fight is far from over. Immigrants who are eligible should continue to prepare by learning more about the eligibility criteria, saving money for the application fee and gathering documents necessary to support their application. And AAPIs who are eligible for the existing DACA program should continue to apply and/or renew their DACA status. Just as important, AAPIs eligible for relief should share their stories to show that these programs are important to us. For more information on deferred action, please see our fact sheet on how to prepare for executive action and visit Advancing Justice | AAJC’s Resource Page on Executive Action.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC is a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. working to fight for civil and human rights and empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to participate in democracy. Advancing Justice | AAJC is part of a national affiliation that also includes Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Chicago and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. Visit www.advancingjustice-aajc.org for more information.