On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced that he is taking executive action on immigration law. In an effort to provide relief to the millions of undocumented people living in the United States, President Obama expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (“DACA”) Program and created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (“DAPA”) program. The expanded DACA program would allow individuals who arrived prior to January 1, 2010 and meet the requirements of the original DACA program to apply for a work authorization card, social security number and deferred action. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) was set to start accepting applications under this expanded program on February 18, 2015. DAPA also would allow certain individuals to apply for a work authorization card, social security number and deferred action. USCIS was expected to start accepting applications in May.
However, on December 3, 2014, 26 states, including Texas, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s November 20 executive action. On February 16, 2015, a U.S. District Court in Texas granted the states’ motion for a preliminary injunction. As a result of this decision, USCIS has been unable to continue its efforts in complying with the timeline set forth by the President and USCIS. USCIS is no longer accepting applications for DACA under the expanded program. Furthermore, depending on the outcome of the litigation, USCIS is unsure if and when it will be able to accept applications under the DAPA program. The Court’s decision does not affect the original DACA program, and USCIS is still accepting and processing cases under the original requirements.
The government has appealed the Court’s decision and, on February 23, 2015, the government filed a motion to stay the preliminary injunction in an effort to continue to implement the executive action until the litigation is resolved. In its motion, the government argues that the Texas court lacked authority to issue the preliminary injunction. In an effort to minimize the effects of the injunction, the government is also seeking a partial stay of the injunction to the extent that it purports to apply nationwide, and argues that it should only apply to Texas.
The fate of the expanded DACA program and the DAPA program lies in the hands of the court. Until a decision is made on the stay and the appeal, executive action is at a standstill. The government has expressed optimism that it will prevail and that this decision is merely a bump in the road.