Obama immigration action may be dead, labor leader says

Article author: 
Dan Wheat
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
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YAKIMA, Wash. — A federal appeals court upholding an injunction against the President Barack Obama’s controversial executive action on immigration probably means it is dead for the remainder of his term in office, a farm labor leader says.

“It is my understanding the administration probably will appeal and that could take a couple of years,” said Mike Gempler, executive director of Washington Growers League, a non-partisan association representing agricultural employers on labor issues.

The executive action would defer deportation and provide temporary legal work status for about 5 million of an estimated 12 million people in the U.S. illegally, was scheduled to take effect in May. Many of the illegal immigrants are farmworkers.

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.

The injunction was appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. A three-judge panel of that court upheld the injunction on May 26.

“In my opinion, it was productive to push the envelope a little on this,” Gempler said. “It was provocative and made people think and hopefully would trigger action in Congress.”

Comprehensive immigration reform by Congress seems unlikely anytime soon but it is needed because an executive action “is a very temporary measure,” Gempler said.

Tom Roach, a Pasco, Wash., immigration attorney, could not be reached for comment. Previously, he has estimated 90,000 to 100,000 people in Central Washington and northeastern Oregon are eligible under the executive action for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans — known as DAPA — or an expanded 2014 version of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — called DACA.

Thousands of illegal immigrants are eligible in Idaho and California, he said.

Gempler said he believes there’s always been public support for DACA because it makes sense to not deport people who have grown up in the U.S.

“For DAPA, I don’t get a sense that there’s a lot of support in the general public or in the farm community necessarily, but I think there is in the immigrant community,” he said.

United Farm Workers, Keene, Calif., issued a news release denouncing the court ruling. UFW was among more than 100 organizations filing friend of the court briefs and issuing statements in support of the president’s action. UFW expressed optimism that Obama’s executive order eventually will prevail and said it will continue to help prepare illegals for administrative relief under DAPA and DACA.

OneAmerica, a Seattle immigration group, issued a statement calling the decision “disappointing” and saying it believes eventually millions will be given the chance to apply for DAPA and DACA.

Presente.org, a Latino power group, issued a statement saying the court ruling “is part of a continuing and well-orchestrated Republican attack on Latinos and immigrants.”