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Anti-immigrant judge blocks expansion of Deferred Action

By Masao Suzuki |
February 21, 2015
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San José, CA - On Feb. 16, Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen placed an injunction on President Obama’s expansion of the Deferred Action program. While the Obama administration said that it would appeal the injunction, Hanen’s decision stopped the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was set to start on Wednesday, Feb. 18. The injunction may even delay the start of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) which was supposed to begin in mid-May.

The expansion of Deferred Action would have shielded up to 5 million undocumented people who had been in the U.S. for more than five years and who were parents of U.S. citizen or legal resident children. Obama announced this program in November of 2014 after the Republican-led House of Representatives failed to act on immigration reform. In 2012 he signed DACA, Deferred Action for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. About 85% of undocumented people and those who would benefit from the Deferred Action expansion are Mexican and Central American, and this would have been a step forward in their struggle for equality.

The lawsuit against the Deferred Action expansion was filed by Republican governor of Texas. Judge Hanen is an anti-immigrant federal judge nominated by President George W. Bush. In a previous decision he had blasted the government for not arresting and deporting a undocumented mother who had brought her child to U.S. to reunite her family.

The injunction stopping the DACA expansion and DAPA is at best a stretch, according to many legal experts. The federal government has authority over immigration, not the states, and in the past the federal government has successfully blocked state-level anti-immigrant laws such as Arizona’s SB1070 and California’s Proposition 187.

Judge Hansen claimed that Obama had violated the law calling for public comments on new government regulations. But the Deferred Action program is not a new regulation; there is no requirement that any businesses or individuals have to follow. Further, the legal standing of the states, that is, their ability to sue based on damages that they suffered is questionable as they claimed that the DAPA would increase undocumented immigration, putting burdens on the states for education, health care, etc. But this is speculation about the future, not actual damage.

The weak legal foundation for blocking the Deferred Action shows the political nature of the courts. For all the claims of impartiality and use of legal presidencies, the fact is that the courts are fundamentally political.

The delay of the Deferred Action expansion was welcomed by Republicans of all stripes, including so-called moderates like former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush. This shows once again the anti-immigrant nature of Republican Party, despite all their talk of reaching out to “Hispanics.” The blatant nature of racism in the Republican Party, from their opposition to affirmative action, their attacks on public sector unions that disproportionately affect Black and women workers, to their anti-immigrant actions such as Arizona’s SB1070 are showing again with their attack on Deferred Action.

While the Obama administration almost certainly will appeal this decision, they seemed to be in no rush to do so. Indeed the Democrats could gain from a long, drawn-out battle if they succeed in wedding Chicano and Latino voters to the Democratic Party in the upcoming 2016 election.

For immigrant rights activists, the court delay of Deferred Action shows the importance of continuing to fight for drivers licenses, in-state tuition, and other state and local struggles for equality for the undocumented. Here in California, the long awaited implementation of drivers licenses for undocumented people has allowed thousands to get their licenses, removing the fear that every time they drive could lead to deportation.

The court action also shows the need to fight for legalization of all the undocumented. The expansion of Deferred Action, which would benefit millions of immigrants who could get a Social Security number and better jobs, would still subject to the whim of the courts and future presidents who could end the program. The DAPA would still leave about half of the undocumented as targets of the record level of deportations under the Obama administration.

Overturn the Hansen injunction and implement the DACA expansion and DAPA now!

Drivers licenses and state college tuition equity for undocumented immigrants!

Legalization for all!

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