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Immigrant Community Awaits DAPA and Expanded DACA

While implementation of the President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is temporarily placed on hold, many are confident that the ongoing legal battle will be decided in favor of the administration and are continuing with their efforts to prepare for it.

The Office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio through its Office of Immigrant Affairs, for instance, continues to screen individuals who may be eligible for the program. The DAPA program extends eligibility for deferred action to certain parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents while the expanded DACA eliminated the age cap of 31 years under the original program and moved the eligibility cut-off date for continuous residence in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010.

According to Mayor de Blasio’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, around 54 percent of the 600 individuals who were screened may qualify for deferred action under the President’s program. Around 40 percent who underwent screening found that they might be eligible for visas or other types of benefits. The screening process is conducted through the CUNY Citizenship NOW! call-in.

Meanwhile, the government requested the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to lift U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s order which blocked the President’s DAPA and expanded DACA program. On April 7, 2015, Judge Hanen refused to lift the temporary injunction he issued on February 16, 2015 which effectively stopped the programs until the case is resolved. He has yet to rule on the merits of the case.

On April 17, 2015, the 5th Circuit heard the oral arguments from both sides which lasted two and a half hours.

Benjamin Mizer who represented the Justice Department argued that the decision was wrong as a matter of law. Mizer, during the oral arguments, explained that the program does not amount to blanket amnesty. Deferred action is a form of prosecutorial discretion which is well-within the executive authority of the President and according to Mizer, “discretion is being exercised on a case-by-case basis.”

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller, whose state leads 25 other states in the lawsuit, on the other hand, argued that the president abused his authority when he announced the DAPA and expanded DACA program in November.

The three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit has yet to issue a decision whether to grant the government’s motion for an “emergency stay” of the court order, pending appeal, or in the alternative, to stay its order beyond application in Texas.

The judges in the panel include Judge Jerry Smith, Judge Jennifer Elrod, and Judge Stephen Higginson. According to legal analysts, it is difficult to determine how each judge will rule.

Meantime, the April 7, 2015 decision of the 5th Circuit in Crane v. Johnson which dismissed the lawsuit challenging the original 2012 DACA program comes as great news to the immigrant community. Many are hopeful that the decision in Crane is foretelling of the outcome in the pending lawsuit challenging the President’s DAPA and expanded DACA program.

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