Federal Judge Issues Injunction; Expanded DACA and New DAPA on Hold for Now

In response to a federal judge’s order temporarily blocking President Obama’s executive action on immigration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has halted plans to roll out the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program today. Whether DHS will launch the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program in May 2015 is also uncertain.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas sided with the Texas-led coalition of 26 states that filed a lawsuit to block the implementation of the expanded DACA and the new DAPA.

The White House said  Obama’s actions “are well within his legal authority.” The U.S. Department of Justice plans to appeal and will likely request an emergency stay of Judge Hanen’s decision at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Money, Money, Money

In his 123-page decision, Judge Hanen ruled that the Obama administration failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act because it did not follow the notice-and-comment rulemaking process in implementing the new policies. The judge did not rule on the primary legal claim that the deferred action programs are unconstitutional.

The Texas-led coalition of states in the lawsuit are 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, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The judge found that Plaintiffs would suffer economic injuries as a result of the deferred action programs and therefore have standing to file the lawsuit.

Texas, in particular, stated that the DHS Directive would create a new class eligible to apply for driver’s licenses, the processing of which would add substantial costs to its budget. The judge noted, “Texas’ undocumented population is approximately 1.6 million, and Plaintiffs’ evidence suggests that at least 500,000 of these individuals will be eligible for deferred action through DAPA.” The judge added there would be increased costs associated with processing a wave of new driver’s licenses.

In 2013, an estimated 86.3% of the U.S. workforce commuted to work in private vehicles. This is especially true in the 26 states that filed the lawsuit, as none of them have extensive mass transit systems.  Because federal law requires the issuance of driver’s licenses to deferred action recipients, Judge Hanen found that the states would suffer economic injuries as a result of the new programs.

Plaintiffs also argued that the DHS Directive will create a discriminatory employment environment that encourages employers to hire DAPA beneficiaries instead of lawful residents.  They noted that DAPA beneficiaries are more affordable to hire because it is likely that employers will not be required to provide them with health care or suffer a penalty for not doing so.

“…no effective way of putting the toothpaste back in the tube…”

On page 120 of his order, the judge reasoned, “If the preliminary injunction is denied, Plaintiffs will bear the costs of issuing licenses and other benefits once DAPA beneficiaries  – armed with Social Security cards and employment authorization documents – seek their benefits. He added, “once these services are provided, there will be no effective way of putting the toothpaste back in the tube should Plaintiffs ultimately prevail on the merits.”

Although the deferred action programs will add to social and economic costs, they will also bring additional benefits and revenues. The net effect of socially and economically integrating deferred action recipients into the American community is positive.

DACA and DAPA recipients with work permits will be able to work lawfully as employees, and are likely to increase their tax payments. These programs are expected to generate federal and state income tax revenue.

The programs will also help prevent unscrupulous employers from taking advantage of undocumented workers by paying them low wages and subjecting them to unacceptable working conditions. This should lead to an overall improvement in wages and working conditions for U.S. workers.

In one report, the Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council describes the various ways in which executive action on immigration creates a positive impact. It states, “Immigrants – including the unauthorized – create jobs through their purchasing power and entrepreneurship, buying goods and services from U.S. businesses and creating their own businesses, both of which sustain U.S. jobs.” It further states, “The presence of new immigrant workers and consumers in an area spurs the expansion of businesses, which also creates new jobs.”

Judge Hanen’s Ruling Does Not Involve Old DACA

In his February 17 statement, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced:”The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction; in the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it.”

Johnson added, “Accordingly, the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned. Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA.”

Under the expanded DACA, more undocumented immigrants or those who fell out of status and arrived in the U.S. as children would qualify for deferred action and receive employment authorization for three years. The new DAPA would extend to undocumented parents of Americans and lawful residents. The implementation of both programs are now on hold.

There is no set timeline for when the Fifth Circuit would issue a ruling on an appeal from the Justice Department. In the meantime, qualified applicants who are interested in applying for deferred action under expanded DACA or new DAPA should continue collecting required documents, in the event that the injunction is lifted.

Judge Hanen’s ruling does not involve the old DACA that was introduced in 2012 by then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Those who qualify for deferred action and work authorization under the old DACA can still apply and re-apply for these benefits.

[UPDATE: On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced the rescission of the DACA program. No initial applications filed on or after this date will be considered. Renewal applications filed by DACA holders, whose benefits expire on or before March 5, 2018, will be considered up October 5, 2017.]

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.


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Photo by: Michael Lynch

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