A mere two days before the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was set to begin accepting applications from individuals newly eligible for its protections under the President's executive orders on immigration, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas blocked those orders from taking effect. Judge Hanen defended his decision by genuflecting to those parties who have sued the Obama Administration over Constitutional legitimacy of the executive order, arguing that the DACA and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability) programs cannot be implemented while that lawsuit remains unresolved.
We would like to remind Judge Hanen that prominent legal scholars have described the President's executive actions as lawful. It makes sense to implement prosecutorial discretion in this case -- to focus immigration enforcement resources on those who pose a threat to public safety, rather than hard-working individuals who have lived in America for years and are simply trying to provide a better life for their families.
While Judge Hanen has put these legitimate initiatives on hold for the benefit of those groups suing the administration, millions of otherwise law-abiding persons, the vast majority of whom are Latino, will be forced to remain living in the margins of our society -- without the protection of the law, without full integration into the communities that they've frequently been living in for years already, and without a chance to pursue their dreams as aspiring Americans.
As our partners at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) have reported, administrative relief isn't an abstract political question for Latino families. One local leader described the effects of the DACA and DAPA programs as being transformative, across the community: "Young employees who now don't have to worry that their parents will be deported. Individuals who are being seen in our mental health unit with traumatic stress disorder because they are constantly fearful of being caught and separated from their children. Children who now don't have to carry a plan with them describing what to do if their parents are deported. Victims of domestic violence or children that are abducted by a parent no longer have to suffer in silence because they fear being deported." Clearly, the President's executive orders bring a profound level of change for many Latino families.
Judge Hanen isn't just hurting Latino families -- he's also blocking smart policy that would help boost tax revenues, give the economy a shot in the arm, and improve the financial standing of key social programs. A recent Senate hearing found that the President's executive actions would increase national GDP by .15 percent by 2024, add the incomes of nearly a million more workers to payroll tax revenues, and reduce the Social Security deficit, among other long-term positive benefits. There's no valid reason not to let these programs go forward -- only political scheming and posturing can explain why DACA and DAPA have been put on hold.
All is not lost, however. Similar suits against President's executive orders have already been dismissed by federal courts, attorney generals from 12 states and Washington, D.C. have filed legal briefs in support of the President's actions, and Judge Hanen has a record of severe anti-immigration reform positions. When the smoke clears from this latest political attack against the Obama administration, we are confident that millions of qualified individuals will be able to obtain administrative relief.
With his last-minute decision, Judge Hanen has blocked nearly 5 million aspiring Americans from getting right with the law, working and paying taxes, and living free from the constant fear of deportation and separation from their families.