WASHINGTON, DC (CNA/EWTN News) - As the Obama administration's massive immigration order met a roadblock in federal court, Catholic immigration advocates are unhappy but are helping undocumented immigrants any way they can.
"Obviously, we're extremely disappointed," Jeanne Atkinson of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network told CNA in response.
CLINIC was founded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and serves dioceses throughout the country in a legal capacity on immigration. It advocates for policies like legal status for undocumented immigrants and family reunification.
"Every day" that the program's implementation is delayed "makes a difference" for parents, children, and siblings of lawful residents, she added, "many of who have been here for many, many years."
On May 26, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay an injunction against President Obama's massive executive action from November, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program. It would have delayed deportation for up to five million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
An expansion of the president's previous executive action on immigration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DAPA would have law enforcement effectively delay by three years the deportation of undocumented immigrants who met certain conditions.
Among the primary conditions for DAPA eligibility were parents who entered the U.S. illegally but had children who were born in the U.S. who were also citizens or lawful permanent residents. In addition, the parents had to have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, passed a criminal background check, and agreed to pay taxes.
Twenty-six states had asked the courts for injunctive relief against having to roll out the program. In February, a district court judge in Brownsville, Tex. granted the state an injunction from implementing DAPA, ruling that the state made a sufficient case that the administration may have violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
The Obama administration then asked the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay on the injunction, but were denied.
Although the federal court decision was a blow to the president's immigration policy, the impact might only be temporary felt with the merits of the case still to be decided.
The administration's official memorandum had established priorities for deportation of the undocumented, the highest including felons, terror suspects or terrorists, "criminal street gang" members, and those apprehended at the border or at ports.
The next highest priority for deportation were the undocumented convicted of three or more misdemeanors or a "significant misdemeanor" like selling drugs, driving under the influence, sexual assault, or burglary. The memorandum made it clear that the lower priority undocumented not be sought after for deportation while higher priority cases existed.
Although unhappy with the delay of the program, CLINIC is still working to help educate undocumented immigrants that the program was only a partial fix and there may be other means for them to "protect yourself from being taken advantage of."
"We're trying to make sure what the immigrant community understands what this means," Atkinson said.
Although legal precedent for the president's executive action probably exists, immigration reform ultimately must be bipartisan and not a unilateral action, argued Alfonso Aguilar, head of the Latino Partnership at the American Principles Project.
The president took a "risk" with the program because "nothing like this has ever been done before," Aguilar said. Because it has been challenged "effectively" in federal court and opposed by so many states, the executive action has made passing comprehensive immigration reform harder than before.
"I understand the frustration," he said of President Obama's criticism of the inaction of Congress on the issue, but "I think he could have waited," Aguilar said. He thinks political capital does exist for Congress to pass immigration bills, but Republicans want it done "piecemeal" and not through a massive comprehensive bill.