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Statement by Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) is disappointed by today’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denying the U.S. Department of Justice’s request for an emergency stay in the anti-immigrant lawsuit Texas v. United States of America. A Texas judge issued an injunction in the lawsuit in mid-February which temporarily halted the implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs.
Despite today’s ruling, NIJC believes that the president’s program has solid legal footing and that the U.S. legal system is strong enough to withstand politically motivated anti-immigrant attacks. We have faith that ultimately the DACA expansion and DAPA will not be stopped by one Texas judge who has repeatedly mischaracterized immigration law and failed to grasp the reality of immigration in our country.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, more than four million immigrants are forced to wait and live in fear that they could be deported and torn from their families at any moment. NIJC client Nery has lived in the United States since 2007 and is the father of two U.S. citizens, including a son who was born in Chicago with severe developmental disabilities. In 2011, Nery was taking his son to the emergency room when a police officer pulled him over and ultimately turned him over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was detained in immigration custody for 51 days at a county jail in Wisconsin before NIJC lawyers won his release and secured prosecutorial discretion, which has now expired.
“I was so relieved when President Obama announced the DAPA program because it would mean I would be able to stay in the United States, care for my sons, and support my family, without constantly worrying about whether I might be deported and permanently separated from my wife and children,” Nery said. “Every day that DAPA is delayed is a day I leave the house knowing I may not return.”
NIJC encourages immigrant families to continue to gather documents, learn about DACA and DAPA, and seek legal consultations to answer questions about whether they will be eligible once the programs are allowed to proceed. A 2014 Center for Migration Studies survey of immigration legal service providers found that 14.3 percent of unauthorized immigrants who sought legal consultations for the original DACA program found out they were potentially eligible for more permanent immigration benefits that included paths to lawful permanent residence and citizenship.