Immigrants urged to continue application process for Obama programs

Jose Montes, 19, sporting his graduation cap and gown from Compton High School, and Paula Sarrad listen Tuesday at L.A. City Hall as speakers talk about expanded federal immigration programs.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Noe Patino found out Monday night that a federal judge had ordered a halt to President Obama’s plan to protect as many as 5 million immigrants living in the United States illegally from deportation.

That didn’t keep him from showing up for an appointment with an immigration attorney Tuesday to go over his application for the program.

“It’s politics,” said Patino, 33, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 12 and meets the criteria for Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. “This is just a bump in the road.”


The planned launch Wednesday of the expanded program has been put on hold indefinitely while the Obama administration appeals Monday’s temporary injunction. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued the ruling in Texas after more than two dozen states sued to block Obama’s executive action, which expanded the eligibility requirements for DACA applicants. It also created another, larger program that offers similar protections, including work permits, for many parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Immigrant advocates say they are confident the injunction will be lifted, and on Tuesday urged those eligible for protection under the new programs to continue working on their applications.

“We want you to keep getting ready,” said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “We know that the law is on our side.”

While immigrant supporters struck a confident tone at dozens of rallies across the country, some also said they worried that the injunction would slow the programs’ momentum and discourage immigrants who may have had previous concerns about applying.

“For those people who were on the fence, this could really push them back into the shadows,” said Martha Arevalo, executive director of the Central American Resource Center, which has screened several hundred immigrants to see whether they are eligible for the new protections.

In the first two years after Obama created the original DACA program in 2012, roughly 50% of those eligible applied, according to federal data. Some blame the modest participation rate on the high application fee and prevailing fears that signing up could put relatives who don’t qualify at risk for deportation.


Bernard, a 43-year-old mechanic born in the Philippines but who has been living in the U.S. illegally since 2000, said he and his wife only recently made the decision to apply for the new Obama program that offers deportation protection for the parents of U.S. citizens. The rollout of that program was expected to begin in May, but it has also been put on hold because of Monday’s injunction.

“It is scary, because we’re going to be exposed,” said Bernard, who asked to be identified by only his first name because he fears immigration authorities. “But this is the only chance we have to move on and have a little bit of a better life.”

He is eager to enroll in the program and take advantage of a work permit, but now that the program’s fate is up in the air, he is left in a state of uncertainty.

“We have to wait,” he said. “We don’t have a choice.”

Those who favor stricter enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws said Monday’s injunction helps their cause and invigorates their ranks.

“This ruling will give hope to millions of Americans unable to find jobs,” said Jo Wideman, executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization. She said Obama’s plan threatens the economic livelihood of American citizens.

Obama announced in November that he would use his executive authority to shield millions from deportation, saying that he wasn’t going to wait for Republicans to fix a broken immigration system. Soon after, Texas and 25 other states mostly controlled by Republican governors went to court to block implementation of his plan, saying Obama didn’t have the authority to carry it out. In recent weeks, Republican congressional leaders have sought to stop the implementation of the programs by blocking their funding.


The president’s plan has the support of about a dozen states and a large number of immigrant-advocacy groups that filed briefs with the court. In California, political leaders were quick to defend Obama’s right to take executive action on immigration, with Gov. Jerry Brown saying “California stands firmly with the White House.”

Outside L.A. City Hall, a large crowd of pro-immigrant activists and politicians gathered Tuesday morning. They shouted “Shame on you!” in unison, in a message to Judge Hanen.

“We must get right in their faces on this,” U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) said of Republicans who have challenged Obama’s immigration plan. “We need them to understand that we’re in it for the long haul. We’re not giving up on these Dreamers. We’re not giving up on people who have given so much to this country.”