Immigrants, advocates ‘sad, disappointed’ over judge’s delay of Obama immigration relief

Rally organized by the New York Immigration Coalition comprising nearly 200 groups in New York State. Photo: NYIC

Rally organized by the New York Immigration Coalition comprising nearly 200 groups in New York State. Photo: NYIC

Dozens of New York immigrants, elected officials, advocates, faith and labor organizations gathered on February 18 in a show of unity against the Federal Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision to temporarily delay immigration relief.

The first part of President Obama’s executive action – an expansion of the current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was set to go into effect on the same day but was halted. The second part – Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) – was set to begin in May 2015.

Advocates made clear that the preliminary injunction is a temporary ruling, further expressing confidence that it would be overturned on appeal.

President Obama’s November 2014 decision to use his executive authority to provide some relief to the millions living in fear of deportation was a national victory for immigrant families and their allies. In New York, more than 300,000 people and nationally close to five million will qualify for these new programs.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, began the press conference by saying, “While anti-immigrant forces are trying to throw up roadblocks, here in New York we are moving forward to prepare the 300,000 individuals who would benefit from this relief. Our communities have worked long and hard for this victory, and we are confident that this latest delay is just a ‘speed bump.’ We will continue to do pre-screenings, inform our immigrant New Yorkers of their rights, and let them know when this ruling is finally overturned. We remain strong in our resolve that administrative relief will become a reality in 2015, and we are backed by hundreds of legal scholars who agree that the President’s executive action on immigration is constitutional and within his legal authority.”

The coalition was joined by its members and allies, elected officials, and affected individuals who continue to prepare their families for administrative relief.

Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling is a setback. One more unwelcome obstacle in the way of achieving the more humane immigration system President Obama envisioned…We will not be discouraged, we will not despair, we will not return to the shadows. We will continue to work for compassion and dignity – we will do the on-the-ground work to make that humane immigration system a reality.”

“The ruling, sought by right-wing extremists, is certainly a disappointment but only a temporary setback,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ. “President Obama has taken action to give much needed relief to immigrants and their families and we are coming together to send the message that those who are blocking implementation of expanded DACA and DAPA programs are standing on the wrong side of history.”

“When I first heard of the President’s announcement in November, I felt so relieved because I could finally contribute more fully to my community and improve the quality of life for my children,” said Angelica Salgado, a mother from Queens and a La Fuente member. “Judge Hanen’s decision to temporarily block administrative relief is propelled by prejudice and xenophobia; they want to intimidate and frighten people like myself from applying for these programs. To these scare tactics, we must respond by redoubling our efforts to educate people in our community, so they can separate the myths from the facts and be prepared to submit their applications when this momentary setback is resolved. Now is the time to get better organized to defend our victory and to renew our commitment to fight for broader and long-term solutions to fix our broken immigration system.”

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New York said, “Yesterday’s ruling by a lower Federal Court in Texas, while disappointing, was neither surprising nor definitive. Catholic Charities will continue to outreach to the individuals and families who need to prepare for the important opportunities afforded by the President’s executive action and hopefully also for comprehensive immigration reform which remains a pressing need.”

Jong Min You, an affected immigrant and member of MinKwon for Community Action said, “It’s been nearly three years since DACA was introduced. I’ve seen my peers who were eligible for the first round of DACA contribute in meaningful ways to this country we call home. When DACA was first announced in 2011, I was already above age 31; while I was happy for my peers, the knowledge that I couldn’t benefit was disheartening. The recent immigration relief measures opened up a window for me and I will not stand idly by while the attorney generals of the States who have put forward this lawsuit play political games with my life and the lives of millions of hardworking immigrants.”

“I felt sad and disappointed to learn that I’m not going to be able to apply to the expanded DACA Program today,” said Francisco Curiel, member of Make the Road New York who will qualify for the DACA expansion. “The original DACA has helped so many young people to learn and work and do critical jobs. It’s wrong to stop this expansion! These are our lives and futures and they should not be the subject of political games.” — New York Immigration Coalition

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