Georgia is home to many undocumented foreign national individuals and families who have been contributing to our state’s unique culture and its economy for several years. These people have been anxiously waiting for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform so that they can finally emerge from the shadows and get on the path to legal residence.
President Obama issued executive orders in November 2014 that were aimed at providing undocumented foreign nationals with temporary immigration-related relief as they and the rest of the country continue to wait for Congress to get its act together.
The two orders that received the most media attention are the expanded DACA program for undocumented young foreign nationals and the new DAPA program for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders. The expanded DACA program was scheduled to take effect on February 18, 2015. Unfortunately, Texas judge Andrew Hanen issued an injunction to temporarily block the implementation of the DACA and DAPA programs just this past Monday night.
How a Judge Got Involved: The Lawsuit of Texas v. United States
In the wake of the President’s announcement, different media outlets reported that the executive orders could help an estimated five million undocumented foreign nationals receive work authorization and a deferral of their deportation proceedings. Of course, as with most policies, not everyone was happy about these projected outcomes. Twenty-six state governments joined together and filed a lawsuit against the United States government in federal court. The lawsuit is called Texas v. United States and the plaintiffs seek to prevent the federal government from implementing the President’s executive orders.
The Judge’s Ruling in Texas v. United States
The basis of the states’ complaint with the federal government is two-pronged. First, they argue that the implementation of DACA and DAPA is unconstitutional as the President does not have the authority to enact these changes to immigration law by way of executive order. Second, the states allege that the implementation of these two programs will essentially be irreversible, and so an injunction is necessary to temporary stop them from going into effect while the court decides whether the President had the constitutional authority to issue the executive orders in the first place.
In his Monday night ruling, Judge Hanen did not speak on the constitutional issues. However, he did issue the injunction because he was of the opinion that a full and unhurried trial was needed to resolve the case – and therefore the injunction was needed to protect the status quo until the trial could be conducted. The judge also stated that he believed the states made a solid argument that the President exceeded his constitutional authority with regards to the executive orders.
The Response to Judge Hanen’s Ruling
The undocumented foreign national population and the immigrant-rights advocacy communities all over the country have loudly criticized the judge’s ruling and are publically expressing their frustration and disappointment in demonstrations and protests.
It is not just the affected foreign nationals who are displeased with the court either. The President is clearly unhappy with the outcome, though he has confirmed that his administration will respect the ruling and hold off on implementing the DACA and DAPA programs until the court upholds the constitutionality of the executive orders.
Importantly, while the administration will respect the decision for now, it is also very likely that the Department of Justice will appeal the injunction or request an emergency stay (which would override the injunction) from the Circuit Court of Appeals.
While we wait for more information on the future of DACA and DAPA, contact our office today to speak to an attorney about what other options may be available to you or a loved one who is in the U.S. without immigration status. We look forward to speaking with you!