Dozens of New York immigrants, elected officials, advocates, legal service providers, and faith and labor organizations on Wednesday (Feb 18) gathered in a show of unity against the Federal Judge Hanen’s Monday 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 Feb 18 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, whose organization hosted the event, 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,” a NYIC press release quoted him as saying.
The Coalition was joined by its members and allies, elected officials, and affected individuals who continue to prepare their families for administrative relief.
“Yesterday’s court decision is a step backward, completely inconsistent with our Founding Fathers principles of fairness and justice,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz. “If Washington doesn’t step up and address immigration reform, we will lead the fight in Albany to do whatever we can’t the state level. From the DREAM Act and immigrant drivers licenses as a start, we will move forward.”
State Senator Adriano Espaillat said, “Washington’s dysfunction has forced millions of immigrant families to live in the shadows, under constant threat of being ripped apart by deportation. Yesterday’s injunction of Obama’s executive actions on immigration will surely extend the hardship of these families. We must build ladders not obstacles to help immigrants succeed.”
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. But let no one doubt that we continue to stand together in the face of this obstacle. We still stand together for dignity for all our neighbors. We will do whatever we can to help see the appeals through. The fact remains, we deserve a more humane immigration system. We need a system that respects families and encourages Dreamers. A system that recognizes the dignity of all our communities’ members. 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, NY 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. Catholic Charities focus is our legal and social services for new Americans, made in God’s image, who merit dignity and respect and the opportunity to provide basic human necessities for themselves and their families.”
Jong Min You, an affected immigrant and member of MinKwon for Community Action said, “It’s been nearly 3 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 law suit play political games with my life and the lives of millions of hardworking immigrants. We deserve a chance, we will continue to prepare for these relief programs, and we know that this unjust ruling will be struck down.”
In a joint statement from Maria Castaneda, secretary-treasurer, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and Estela Vazquez, executive vice president, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, they said, “Once again, right-wing Republicans and their judicial appointees are playing politics with the lives of hard working people. This delay in our fight for a more equitable immigration process is only temporary. However, we know that justice delayed is justice denied. This attempt to stall President Obama’s executive actions is part of the Republican war on women because many immigrant women are the backbones, caretakers and bread winners of their families. As the largest healthcare union in the nation, representing over 400,000 nurses and caregivers, many of whom are immigrants, we vow to hold the elected officials who influenced Monday’s decision responsible for their actions.”
“The day after the President’s announcement we started to prepare our documents to apply for DAPA,” said Monica Morales, member of Riis Settlement and affected immigrant who qualifies for DAPA. “This [DAPA] will not only be a benefit to us, but to the country as a whole. This is not an opportunity for us to change our status, but it will give us a sense of tranquility not only for our family but for the immigrant community. We are expecting another child this month, so with DAPA my husband and myself will no longer have to be afraid of leaving our two daughters behind.”
“Enrolling millions of immigrants in DACA and DAPA programs is central to American democracy and we firmly stand with NYIC today to support the enrollment of DACA and DAPA applicants in New York,” stated Todd Schulte, FWD.us acting president. “Allowing millions of immigrants to stay with their families and come out of the shadows will contribute significantly to New York’s economy. While we will always fight for a permanent legislative solution we must encourage eligible immigrants to apply for the current deferred action programs.”
“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. We are going to continue to get ready and to fight for ourselves and families, as I have been doing for years.”
“Atlas is deeply disappointed in the decision issued by Judge Hanen which not only ignores America’s history as a nation and the continued contributions of immigrants to our society, but also has no basis in the laws it claims to be sworn to uphold,” said Lauren Burke, executive director, Atlas DIY.