SAN JUAN, RGV – Along with excitement that President Obama’s executive ruling on deferred action could bring immigrants out of the shadows there was also fear that the order could be overturned at any time.

This is what Debbie Cruz, La Unión del Pueblo Entero’s immigration attorney, found as she processed dozens of applications from Rio Grande Valley residents for deferred action.

Debbie Cruz, La Unión del Pueblo Entero's staff attorney for immigration issues.
Debbie Cruz, La Unión del Pueblo Entero’s staff attorney for immigration issues.

“I think initially everybody was excited that President Obama came forward and actually did something within his powers. But there is also a lot of skepticism within the community,” Cruz told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Asked what the skepticism was all about, Cruz said: “Not knowing, if it is reversed, what would happen to them if they have already flagged themselves to immigration once they have filed their application. So, there is both excitement of having legal protections but the fear that they are still in limbo because it could easily be taken away from them. With the excitement comes a lot of skepticism.”

Cruz is a native of South Texas and grew up in Donna, Texas. She has a Bachelor’s degree from St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas and studied law at the University SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas, Texas. Every Thursday evening at LUPE’s San Juan office, Cruz hosts orientation meetings for undocumented immigrants that want to apply for deferred action. She noted that there was no path to citizenship with deferred action, which President Obama announced on Nov. 20.

The skepticism of immigrants in South Texas proved to be well-founded on Monday when Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, imposed a temporary injunction on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Hanen, whose court is based in Brownsville, has said states suing the president have standing to fight the executive order. A coalition of 26 states has challenged Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Click here to read the New York Times story on Judge Hanen’s order.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has applauded Judge Hanen's order.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has applauded Judge Hanen’s order.

In a statement on Facebook, LUPE said: “We’re not going to let anyone take this victory away from us.” They urged members and supporters to sign a petition in support of Obama’s immigration action.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott led the lawsuits against DAPA while he was the Lone Star State’s attorney general. He issued this statement on Hanen’s order:

“President Obama abdicated his responsibility to uphold the United States Constitution when he attempted to circumvent the laws passed by Congress via executive fiat, and Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the President’s overreach in its tracks. We live in a nation governed by a system of checks and balances, and the President’s attempt to by-pass the will of the American people was successfully checked today. The District Court’s ruling is very clear – it prevents the President from implementing the policies in ‘any and all aspects.’”

Ken Paxton, Texas’ new attorney general, said Hanen’s order was a “victory for the rule of law in America and a crucial first step in reining in President Obama’s lawlessness.” He added that Obama’s DAPA action was “an affront to everyone pursuing a life of freedom and opportunity in America the right way.”

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, an attorney, is a support of DAPA and filed an amicus ‘friend of the court’ brief on behalf of Congressman Filemon Vela in support of DAPA. In the New York Times’ account of Hanen’s order, Martinez says he hopes that immigrants will eventually be able to come out of the shadows. NYT reporter Julia Preston says Martinez was on a conference call with the White House on Tuesday about the issue.

“We see a tremendous value in families staying together and being together,” Martinez said on the conference call. “Eventually we hope to get all these folks out of the shadows.”

Congressman Vela said: “Executive action is helping more than four million undocumented immigrants, who meet strict requirements, become part of society while legally working and contributing to this country.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn issued this statement on Hanen’s order: “Today’s ruling reinforces what I and many others have been saying for a long time: that President Obama acted outside the law when he went around Congress to unilaterally change our nation’s immigration laws. Today’s victory is an important one, but the fight to reverse the President’s unconstitutional overreach is not over. The President must respect the rule of law and fully obey the court’s ruling.”

Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project, issued this statement on Hanen’s order: “Despite its extreme and inflammatory rhetoric, the Texas court decision does not explicitly hold that DAPA, DACA, or any other part of the federal government’s executive actions, is unconstitutional.

“The decision is very narrow, holding only that the federal government may have failed to follow procedural requirements before implementing Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

“While this setback is serious and should be redressed in due course, the government’s other reforms to protect civil liberties and immigrant communities — including the fundamental principle that the Department of Homeland Security may set priorities for immigration enforcement and exercise prosecutorial discretion – remain in place.”

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez supports President Obama's executive action on immigration.
Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez supports President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

The White House issued this statement on Hanen’s order:

“The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.

“The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority. Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.”

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued this statement on Hanen’s order:

“Today’s decision brought the court far outside the legal mainstream and away from public opinion, which supports the step President Obama took toward finally beginning to fix our dysfunctional immigration system.

“Questions about the legality of President Obama’s actions on immigration have already been addressed in other courts, and state claims like the ones upheld today have already been rejected. Today’s decision overlooked sound legal reasoning and precedent, and, if not reversed, threatens to keep millions of aspiring Americans from coming forward to apply for much-needed reprieves from deportation and work authorization.

“Fortunately, this decision represents only a temporary setback. We urge the Department of Justice to act swiftly to ask the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse this court’s decision to block the immigration initiatives. Failure to do so will confuse potentially eligible immigrants and undermine the success of these initiatives.

“Opponents’ declarations of victory today are premature. We are confident that the courts will ultimately side with the scores of legal experts, state leaders, city officials, and law enforcement leaders who say that these immigration initiatives are both in full compliance with law and deeply beneficial to our communities, society, and country. In the meantime, we will only strengthen our resolve to prepare for the moment when immigrant families can come forward and apply for the opportunity to contribute more fully to the country they have made their home.

“This decision will undoubtedly raise concerns for immigrant communities anxiously awaiting the day they can come out of the shadows. They should continue preparing for implementation by gathering documents that serve as proof of their eligibility, saving money for application expenses, and staying informed. It won’t be long before eligible immigrants will be able to live without the fear of deportation while working lawfully and contributing to their families and communities. That will be a good day for our country.”