Today, February 18, 2015, was supposed to be a good day; it was scheduled to be the first day for applications to be accepted by USCIS for the expanded DACA program. It was going to be a day celebrated – almost a late Valentine’s present – especially for those DREAMERS who have been eagerly awaiting getting protection from deportation, as well as the chance to work with authorization. It was supposed to be a day when applications for deferred action and employment authorization should have been signed, sealed, and delivererd and then fingers crossed, got approved. The banner that should have been displayed this morning on the USCIS website should be announcing they are now accepting applications for the Expanded DACA program. But, instead, because of the ruling of one Texan judge, today’s banner isn’t a cause for celebration. Instead, it is such a let down.
Even though the President’s Administrative Relief (AR) had left many immigration advocates wondering why his administration hasn’t gone further to push for a more permanent fix for immigration reform, there was still excitement in the air when he boldly announced it last November. And now one judge in Texas not only halted the momentum of a program that would benefit DREAMERS, it also has also halted the DAPA program, a program that would have brought stability to potentially millions of undocumented immigrant parents and their families.
As I looked through the USCIS website this morning, there was the following announcement of sorts regarding how the Texan judge was able to dash the hopes of so many DREAMERS:
Update: Due to a federal court order, USCIS will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA on February 18 as originally planned. The court’s temporary injunction, issued February 16, does not affect the existing DACA. Individuals may continue to come forward and request an initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA under the guidelines established in 2012. Please check back for updates.
Although USCIS’s message of “please check back for updates” doesn’t tell us much it is important to understand that the judge’s ruling that caused the expanded DACA and the DAPA programs to be halted did not invalidate either program. Instead, it was ordered that the federal government take additional time to carry out a formal rule-making process. What’s also important to understand is that this order is temporary and the Obama Administration has already voiced intentions to appeal this ruling in the circuit court. Hopefully at that junction, a wiser reading of the law will prevail.
In the meantime, legal immigration programs across the country (including our program at Catholic Charities) must continue to prepare our clients for AR. We must continue to provide outreach to the immigrant community and keep them informed, help them collect the necessary documents needed to apply, and then provide the legal services if AR is re-instated. This ruling shouldn’t deter us from continuing to prepare for AR; instead we need to have faith the Obama Administration will be successful when it has its day in court.