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Immigration Reform Supporters Urge Texas to Drop Lawsuit Over Obama's Executive Action

KUT News
President Obama's immigration initiatives could be tied up in court beyond the end of his term in 2017.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler is among those calling on Texas state leaders to drop a lawsuit over President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

The lawsuit, brought by Texas and 25 other states, seeks to block President Obama’s executive order that protects some 5 million immigrants here from unlawful deportation. A federal judge in Brownsville, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, sided with the states in February and issued an injunction, stopping the implementation of an expanded deferred action program for people who arrived to the U.S. as children and a new one for parents of Americans and permanent residents. His ruling is being appealed at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Cristina Tzintzun is the executive director of the Workers Defense Project, which organized an Austin event Monday to criticize the lawsuit and urge support for immigrants. She sums up the activists’ stance against the lawsuit in one sentence:

“We think this lawsuit is bad for workers, it’s bad for Texas business, and it’s bad for Texas families,” she says.

Of the 2 million undocumented immigrants in Texas, 750,000 of them would qualify for deportation protection or work authorization, Tzintzun adds. Among them would be Carlos Peñate Alvaro who lives in Austin and has a landscaping company. He says Gov. Greg Abbott should take a tour of a construction site and see that Americans don’t want those jobs.

“I assure you if he’d go look at construction sites, he’d find undocumented Hispanics doing the hardest work under the sun, the hardest jobs there are,” he says.

Peñate Alvaro has a daughter who qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and another who’s a U.S. citizen. He says if he can get a social security number he could get more work, especially with companies that require one. His tax ID number isn’t always enough.

Law Professor Michael A. Olivas at the University of Houston thinks Obama is within his authority to use executive action to shield some immigrants here unlawfully from deportation.

“I think personally that the Fifth Circuit will ultimately do the right thing and see that states do not have the authority to bring challenges such as these. Federal authorities have the sole power for immigration, including the president and the Congress," Olivas says. “Obama has used executive authority the same way previous presidents have, and the reason he’s had to act is because Congress has been so slow in acting on comprehensive immigration reform.” 

But Gov. Abbott argues the president can’t unilaterally get rid of previous immigration laws and create new employment and social welfare programs on his own.

Either side will likely appeal whatever the federal appeals court decides to the U.S. Supreme Court. These immigration initiatives might get tied up in court beyond the end of Obama’s term in 2017.

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