Catholic Charities, the Center for Migration Studies, and Catholic Migration Services held a large gathering of more than 350 non-profit immigrant service providers in New York City on Wednesday. The conference was originally organized to plan for the implementation of the president’s administrative relief for immigrants. Although the program was put on hold by a conservative judge in Texas, the organizations decided to continue with the planning conference anyway. There is a strong belief that administrative relief will move forward.
The timing of the start of administration relief is very uncertain. April 17 is the date of a hearing on the request to stay the District Court’s preliminary injunction. A “stay” would allow administrative relief to go into effect until the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit can make a decision on the legality of the president’s actions. The Fifth Circuit will likely rule on the request for a stay in May. The standard for staying the injunction is a high one, so the lifting of the injunction is not assured.
A decision by the Fifth Circuit on the underlying legality of administrative relief is unlikely before mid-summer. It could come even later. Many at the Manhattan conference worried that if a court decision is delayed, the administrative relief program might not begin issuing work authorizations until close to the end of the Obama presidential term. Then it will be up to the next president as to whether to continue the program or not.
Although administrative relief is on hold, there is still a lot that can be done for the undocumented. Tasks range from preparing potential applicants to come forward when the president’s program goes into effect, to helping people who are already eligible for work permits recognize the immigration benefits they qualify for.
Don Kerwin of the Center for Migration Studies pointed out that many undocumented immigrants are eligible for work permits or legal status but don’t know it. For example, half a million people who are currently eligible for DACA still have not applied.
Unfortunately, the stirrings in Congress are ominous. The “Comprehensive Mass Deportation Act” was voted out of committee in the House of Representatives last week. “It makes the mere act of breathing the air in the United States a crime,” observed Kerwin. While the bill will not become law, it shows the dark threat to the undocumented posed by the House majority. Helping undocumented immigrants to get legal status now will help protect them from changes that may go into effect after the next presidential election.