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Immigration News: DAPA, DACA Expansion Blocked by Fifth Circuit Appeals Court

First Posted: Nov 10, 2015 10:06 AM EST
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled to uphold the decision to block President Barack Obama's 2014 deferred action programs, affecting nearly 4.9 million eligible undocumented immigrants.

On Monday evening, the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to keep the temporary injunction, initially placed by Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Texas last Feb. 16, that paused the federal government from implementing the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs.

In November 2014, Obama, through executive action, announced DAPA and extended DACA's guidelines. Shortly after, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott launched a lawsuit to block the deferred action programs, citing the president overreached his executive privileges and it would have negative affects to the state. Since then, Abbott is the governor of Texas and his lawsuit has been supported from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

With the expanded DACA program, eligible applicants currently living in the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2010, may seek a renewable three-year stay instead of two years pending a criminal background check and payment of fines. DAPA would allow eligible immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, who have been in the country since Jan. 1, 2010, to request three-year deferred action and employment authorization.

In Monday's court order, it read, "There can be little doubt that Congress's choices as to the level of funding for immigration enforcement have left [the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)] with difficult prioritization decisions. But those decisions, which are embodied in the DAPA Memorandum, have been delegated to the Secretary by Congress. Because federal courts should not inject themselves into such matters of prosecutorial discretion, I would dismiss this case as non-justiciable."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit comprise of three judges, of which two went in favor of continuing the injunction -- the other judge opposed.

Since Abbott became governor, current Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has continued the efforts to block DACA and DAPA. Following the court's ruling, Paxton said the Fifth Circuit Court defended the separation of powers and Obama must follow U.S. law.

"Throughout this process, the Obama administration has aggressively disregarded the constitutional limits on executive power, and Texas, leading a charge of 26 states, has secured an important victory to put a halt to the president's lawlessness," said Paxton. "I commend Gov. Abbott for his leadership on this issue, as well as the talent and hard work of Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller, who along with his team has so eloquently and expertly argued our case."

Latino and immigrant-advocacy groups, however, have strongly objected to the court's decision.

"The power of our movement is greater than the sum of any anti-immigrant decision. Those behind these attacks are standing in the way of progress and we will not stand down," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

Hincapié added that the Fifth Circuit Court's ruling is "inconsistent with even the most basic legal principles." She called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to follow up with the case with the Supreme Court. With action from the Supreme Court, Hincapié said there is a better likelihood to provide justice for immigrant communities.

Pili Tobar, spokesperson for Latino Victory Project, acknowledged that Monday's decision was not surprising but equally "frustrating and maddening" that anti-immigrant conservative politicians seek to hurt families while advancing their own political interests.

"This is a setback, but not the end of the road. 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 -- allowing the extension of DACA and DAPA to go into effect," said Tobar. "Our families are hurting and we need action to stop family separation and incarceration. In the end we know that we will win. Latinos are listening and we won't forget who stood with us to protect our families, and who would let them get ripped apart."

From the Lone Star State, the Texas Organizing Project (TOP), which has been challenging Abbott's leadership on various issues, said the lawsuit places fear for hardworking immigrant families.

"It also robs Texas of more than $300 million in tax revenue over the next five years. Today's court ruling is far from the final word on President Obama's executive action," said TOP Immigration Campaign Field Director Danny Cendejas. "We remain confident that this executive action will be ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court"

Cendejas later added, "As we approach the one-year anniversary of the President announcing DAPA and expanded DACA, TOP members are holding demonstrations and days of action this month to show that immigrant and Latino families will not sit idly by while their rights continue to be trampled on by Gov. Abbott. We are fighting back and holding him accountable for his efforts to continue separating families."

A DOJ spokesman said it is reviewing the court's opinion to determine the next steps in implementing DAPA and DACA's expansion.

The Justice Department, according to the Wall Street Journal, said it "is committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible in order to allow DHS to bring greater accountability to our immigration system by prioritizing the removal of the worst offenders, not people who have long ties to the United States and who are raising American children."

Must Read: Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), Details on Who's Included & Excluded - What You Need To Know 

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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