U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Brownsville, Texas, has issued an injunction against the federal government that orders a stop to the “executive actions” on deportation policy that President Obama announced last fall.

The White House says it will appeal the decision, so the fight is by no means over. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined other states in intervening in the case.


UPDATE: Rutledge issued a statement later in the day applauding Hanen’s injunction. “This ruling, which blocks the President’s unlawful executive action on immigration nationwide, is an important victory in reigning in a President who has attempted to bypass Congress,” she said. “As this case moves forward, I will stand against the President’s unconstitutional and unilateral action in order to protect the interest of all Arkansans.”

As many as 60,000  Some 30,000 residents of Arkansas could be assisted by the programs, according to estimates of the undocumented immigrant population in the state. (NOTE: Estimates vary about exactly how many people would be affected. The Catholic Diocese here in Little Rock previously has put the number at 60,000, but I’m going with the lower number cited by Arkansas United Community Coalition, an advocate group for Arkansas immigrants.)


Obama’s executive actions don’t bestow citizenship or residency on people who immigrated to the U.S. illegally; only Congress can do that. Instead, they grant relief from deportation to families while focusing federal law enforcement on those undocumented immigrants who have committed other crimes while in the country. Law and precedent give the president broad authority in immigration enforcement, but Republicans say the executive actions effectively overstep the president’s constitutional bounds.

There are two main components to the executive actions: An expansion of an existing program called DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals), which provides relief from deportation for young people brought to the United States as children, and a new program that’s come to be known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), which would provide relief to undocumented parents of citizens or permanent residents.


The DACA expansion was set to begin today (or rather, the application process would begin) which explains Judge Hanen’s timing. If the program began, he said, “there will be no effective way of putting the toothpaste back in the tube.”

At this point, young immigrants in Arkansas who have been considering applying for DACA should continue with the process, for two reasons. First, since the White House is appealing the decision, the injunction may not last long. Second, the injunction doesn’t affect the original DACA, which existed prior to Obama’s announcement in November. Thousands of young people in Arkansas who are eligible for the pre-expansion DACA have yet to apply.

From the LA Times:

Hanen did not issue a full ruling on the merits of the arguments against the program, which was challenged by 26 states that have Republican-majority governments, led by Texas. A full trial on the case cannot be held before the deportation program would take effect, he wrote, saying that the temporary injunction was needed to preserve the status quo until then.

UPDATE: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has issued a statement saying the government will comply with the injunction while also appealing Hanen’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Johnson also notes that the original group of people covered by DACA are still eligible to apply. Here’s the full release:


I strongly disagree with Judge Hanen’s decision to temporarily enjoin implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction; in the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it.

Accordingly, the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned. Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA.

The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and even other courts have said that our actions are well within our legal authority. Our actions will also benefit the economy and promote law enforcement. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do.

It is important to emphasize what the District Court’s order does not affect.

The Court’s order does not affect the existing DACA. Individuals may continue to come forward and request initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA pursuant to the guidelines established in 2012.

Nor does the Court’s order affect this Department’s ability to set and implement enforcement priorities. The priorities established in my November 20, 2014 memorandum entitled “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants” remain in full force and effect. Pursuant to those enforcement priorities, we continue to prioritize public safety, national security, and border security. I am pleased that an increasing percentage of removals each year are of those convicted of crimes. I am also pleased that, due in large part to our investments in and prioritization of border security, apprehensions at the southern border – a large indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally — are now at the lowest levels in years.

UPDATE II: Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola — whose city includes a good number of immigrant families potentially eligible for DAPA or expanded DACA — is speaking out against the injunction, according to the Arkansas United Community Coalition (AUCC), an advocacy group for immigrants.

In the AUCC release, Stodola said, “the outcome of this case affects tens thousands of real Arkansas families. I applaud and support the 33 mayors who, on January 28 of this year, filed an amicus brief, along with the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, in support of the deferred action programs. Last night’s preliminary injunction preventing all these immigrants the opportunity to more fully integrate and continue contributing to their communities would most assuredly harm cities, like Little Rock, and is not in the public interest.”

AUCC says it will continue to hold a series of planned workshops to educate immigrants about their potential eligibility for deferred action:

FRIDAY: 2/20/2015
**Event: DAPA Presentation
Location: Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center
210 Valerie Thompson Bailey St, Springdale, AR
Time: 6-8PM (presentation and focus group)

**Event: DAPA Presentation
Location: Arkansas Tech University
Russellville, AR
Time: 3PM

SATURDAY: 2/21/2015
**Event: DAPA Presentation
Location: Hall High School
6700 H Street, Little Rock, AR 72205
Time: 10AM

**Event: DAPA Presentation
Location: First Christian Church
200 N Main Street, Hope, AR 71801
Time: 10AM

SUNDAY: 2/22/2015
**Event: DAPA Presentation
Location: St. Barbara Catholic Church
503 West DeQueen Avenue, De Queen, AR 71832
Time: 2PM