A U.S. Court of Appeals hears arguments, April 17, on an injunction that stopped Obama's executive order to give work status to illegal aliens but the issue could take longer if it goes to the Supreme Court.
PASCO, Wash. — It may be months yet before millions of people living in the U.S. illegally can sign up for temporary legal work status under the president’s controversial executive action, a Pasco immigration attorney says.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans, hears arguments April 17 on an injunction preventing the Obama administration from proceeding with deportation deferrals and temporary legal work status for people in the U.S. illegally.
Having just dismissed a similar case April 9, the court is likely to overturn the injunction and let the programs proceed while taking up the merits of the case, says attorney Tom Roach.
But regardless of which way the court goes on the injunction, the losing party may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and that could take several more months to hear, Roach said.
He estimates there are 90,000 to 100,000 people in Central Washington and northeastern Oregon, thousands more in Idaho and many thousands more in California who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) or an expanded 2014 version of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, called DACA 2.0. Many of them are farmworkers.
The programs are executive actions giving temporary legal work status to illegals who have lived in the U.S. at least five years, not been convicted of disqualifying crimes and meet some other conditions.
Roach said he helped about 350 people prepare to sign up for DAPA before the program was put on hold Feb. 16 by an injunction by a U.S. District Court judge in Texas.
Roach said he’s handled 335 cases under the 2012 DACA which he’s been told is more than any other immigration attorney in the state.
How many people sign up for DAPA or DACA 2.0, if the programs are eventually upheld, is a good question, he said.
Some people may be eager for legal status and benefits that come with it while others may figure they’ve done well enough in the shadows for years and are reluctant to risk exposure since deferrals are only good for three years, he said.
Benefits include a Social Security card good only with a work permit and, in some states, drivers licenses.
The government estimates 1.2 million people were eligible under the 2012 DACA program but only 600,000 signed up, Roach said.
An estimated 4 million to 5 million people are eligible for DAPA nationwide. “It wouldn’t surprise me if only half of them sign up,” he said.
Shortly after the November 2014 elections, President Obama issued an executive action for DAPA and DACA 2.0. The administration planned to implement the programs this spring. Many Republicans said the action was unconstitutional, that Obama was writing law.
On Feb. 16, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, in Texas, ruled in favor of 26 states that sued to overturn the executive order and issued an injunction stopping the programs on grounds that they were implemented without following an administrative procedures act requiring a public comment period.
On April 7, Hanen denied an administration request to lift his injunction.
The government argues the executive order is prosecutorial discretion that does not require the administrative procedures act be followed, Roach said.
Prior administrations have deferred deportation of people from China, Nicaragua, Cuba and other places, just not on the same scale, he said.
On April 9, the 5th Circuit Court dismissed a lawsuit challenging the 2012 DACA, saying the state of Mississippi lacked standing to sue because it did not prove it was injured by the program.
The 26 states suing over DAPA and DACA 2.0 “allege irreparable harm, that the programs will cost them lots of money and encourage more illegal immigration,” Roach said.
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