Immigrants' Advocates Angry After Court Blocks Amnesty for Kids

UPDATE at 12:25 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015: The Obama administration is taking this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Details below.

A federal judge this week blocked President Obama's plan to provide virtual amnesty for millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs are the pillars of his immigration plan. Both have been halted in their tracks.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled 2-1 against the Obama administration's appeal of a lower-court ruling in Texas that halted the plan.

The president announced DAPA one year ago, hoping to extend his deferred-action dream to include parents of children born here. He was trying to make good on a promise to Latino voters to provide some legitimacy to nearly half of the 11 million people estimated to be in the United States without permission or basic rights.

His clear intention was to provide limited immigration reform without having to rely on a do-nothing Congress that has come under the influence of a new generation of Republican hard liners with no patience for amnesty.

Obama's executive-action plan was challenged as an illegal swerve around the legislative authority we've invested in U.S. senators and reps. The Fifth Circuit cited the impact it would have on states.

"Congress did not intend to make immune from judicial review an agency action that reclassifies millions of illegal aliens in a way that imposes substantial costs on state," wrote Judge Jerry E. Smith in his majority opinion.

The court leans Republican, so this wasn't exactly a surprise. 

And there's still hope for immigration advocates in Los Angeles, which is in many ways ground zero for undocumented workers and the nation's debate over illegal immigration.

The decision might have left a small window of time for the administration to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and, if victorious, get some folks work permits and protection from immigration authorities before Obama leaves office in 2017.

"This decision clears the way for the Obama administration to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court," the pro-immigrant American Immigration Council said in a statement last night. "The American Immigration Council urges the administration to act promptly and seek immediate Supreme Court review."

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The Latino Victory Project also held out hope for a favorable high court ruling.

"This is a setback, but not the end of the road," said the organization's Pili Tobar. "It is our hope that the Obama administration will appeal this decision, and that the Supreme Court will decide to hear this case and uphold the president's power to set enforcement priorities for immigration laws...."

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles also called on the administration to file an "immediate appeal." The group said that, until then, families with mixed immigration statuses will be broken up by deportation.

"Millions of people and their families have waited for the court's decision for months and the wait has resulted in countless deportations and broken families," said Angelica Salas, executive director for CHIRLA. She vowed to undertake "a firm commitment to continue our fight on the streets, the ballot box and the courts ... "

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said she'd continue to back the president's plan to protect some immigrants from deportation.

"President Obama has proposed common-sense actions to help address our broken immigration system — using the same executive authority that every president in the last five decades has used," she said. "I am disappointed by the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, which will delay justice and fairness for many immigrant families. Bringing nearly 5 million individuals out of the shadows will promote public safety, benefit our economy and extend the American Dream. My office will continue to lead the way in defending the president’s actions so that we can enjoy a safer, more prosperous California."

UPDATE at 12:25 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015: The Obama administration said it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal.

"The Department of Justice remains committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible," said U.S. Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, had this to say today:

This swift decision from the Department of Justice to appeal the flawed ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit means the only thing standing between millions of immigrants and relief from constant fear and uncertainty are the nine justices on the Supreme Court. It’s now up to the Supreme Court to put the remaining legal questions to rest so that the over 5 million U.S. citizen children whose parents are eligible for DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) can finally have stability and be free from the fear that they will one day be separated from their parents.


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