Steven Arteaga phoned his mother in the late hours to tell her to put her hopes on hold - a judge had blocked President Barack Obama’s immigration executive action.
Arteaga of Houston had learned that the 26 states that sued Obama had succeeded, at least for now. They had challenged Obama’s policies to shield millions of immigrants here illegally from deportation and give them work permits.
“I was encouraging her to apply . . . I was mad because they are playing with people’s lives,” Arteaga said.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas issued the temporary injunction late Monday, two days before the federal government planned to begin taking applications for the first set of deportation deferrals.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement that he strongly disagrees with the decision. As a result of the ruling, his agency will not go ahead with plans to start accepting applications Wednesday for deportation deferrals. Johnson said the Department of Justice would appeal.
“I called her last night and I let her know.’” said Arteaga, a volunteer with the advocacy group Mi Familia Vota. He obtained protection from deportation in a 2012 Obama program that was not challenged in the states’ lawsuit. “She was really disappointed ... She was going to apply," he said about his mother.
Arteaga was one of six young immigrants who had met with Obama early this month in the Oval Office about his executive action. At that meeting Arteaga had criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for filing the lawsuit, which the other states joined.
“What they are doing to the community, they are taking what little hope they have from not being deported or having a work permit or having a better view of the American Dream,” Arteaga said. “They are taking what little vision we have and are throwing it away and tearing it apart.”
The judge’s order allows states to go forward with their lawsuit. It puts on hold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.
For Ivan Reyes, 34, the decision means a chance for getting out of illegal status has slipped away again. His father gained legal residency under the 1986 amnesty program, but had never applied for his children to get legal residency. His father had died and Reyes, in the country since he was 11 has been told by lawyers he can’t become a legal resident.
“We’ve been here like this for how long? Twenty years already,” Reyes said. “I just feel the country did wrong because the people that want to get ahead with their life and study and maybe be an engineer, a programmer, a doctor, a lawyer or something . . . With this nobody wants to go to school anymore because you got to school for what? They aren’t even going to look at you for a job," said Reyes.
He said he attended a computer repair technology school on a scholarship and with his own earnings. But now he runs a landscape business and does some computer work from his home.
Many of the activists who pushed Obama to take the executive action were refusing to consider the judge’s decision permanent and were pushing back by telling immigrants to go forward preparing to apply for the deportation deferrals and work permits.
Jean-Yannick Diouf, originally from Senegal but now a student at the University of Maryland, said Obama had told him, when he and other immigrants met with the President, to expect a lot of backlash. So the ruling did not surprise him.
“He assured us he worked with his lawyers . . . and they looked at every possible angle where it could be challenged,” Diouf said. He was heading to study for an international business exam scheduled for Wednesday, but said he’d be informing members of the community to continue preparing to apply for the deferrals.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., was planning to go forward with a previously scheduled workshop Wednesday to inform people about the executive actions.
“We may be delayed but we will not be deterred,” Gutierrez said. “In our neighborhoods, this is about defending families and making sure that children who are U.S. citizens grow up with their parents … I am telling immigrant communities to keep preparing to sign up millions of families for protection from deportation.”
Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy for United We Dream, said her group has been fielding a lot of questions about the impact of the decision. She said she saw the lawsuit as an effort by Republicans to send a chilling effect throughout the community so people don’t come forward. The message the GOP is sending the community is not to wait, she said, but “we want to deport you.”
Praeli said the judge essentially found that Obama did not follow rules on how agencies should implement rules and regulations and did not rule on whether the executive action was constitutional.
“The real effect is it delays people’s lives,” Praeli said.
Her mother is among those who hoped to apply for DAPA. Praeli said she hadn’t contacted her mother yet, but she knows she’s a fighter.
“A lot of our parents they’ve been fighting since they got here. That’s the case for (my mother). She found a way to get here. That’s the reason our spirits are up. I think of people like her,” she said.
The Republican Party issued a statement praising the ruling and emphasizing the previous times Obama said he didn’t have legal authority to act unilaterally on immigration. “He was right, the court agrees,” said Ruth Guerra, a party spokeswoman.
“The president’s unlawful amnesty has been stopped,” Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, said in a news release. “Our Constitution has been preserved and the president has been put on notice that his unilateral actions will not go unchallenged.”
Groups were asking the Department of Justice to appeal the ruling.
“Opponents declarations of victory today are premature,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. She called the decision “far outside the legal mainstream.”