A Texas judge’s Tuesday decision blocking President Obama’s executive order on immigration has come as devastating news to the estimated 1 million undocumented New Yorkers.
Wednesday would have been the first day for some 270,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to apply for work permits and legal protection under an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Another program, aimed at helping parents of lawful residents stay in the country, wasn’t set to begin until May.
The president’s plan was aimed at keeping 4.7 million undocumented people from being deported.
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U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued the temporary injunction against the immigration order, responding to a suit filed by 26 states. The White House said Tuesday it will appeal, but will abide by the judge’s order and not accept applications for immigration protection.
“I’m so depressed because I have to call my clients,” and tell them to wait, said Irina Matiychenko, director New York Legal Assistance Group’s Immigrant Protection Unit.
One client has been in the U.S. for 10 years, while two daughters were born and her husband died. “I have to call her and tell her please, wait another month, another two months, but she has been waiting for 10 years.”
The legal aid group had a clinic scheduled Wednesday at the Mexican Consulate to help clients fill out forms related to the President’s programs. Instead, they provided information on the injunction.
While Matichenko says the delays could last months, she won’t give up helping immigrants, most of whom, she says won’t be a priority for deportation while the lawsuit works it way through court.
”It doesn’t mean we stop our work,” Matichenko said. “Now is especially important to see as many people as we can, advise them on changes and prevent them from going to people who can defraud them.”
Obama’s order and the court action against it have been a hot topic in English-language classes and among her immigrant clients, said Alyssa Bain, who runs the Office for New Americans at immigrant aid group Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow.
“People are nervous about giving their information to the government, and the government fighting with itself doesn’t give people confidence,” Bain said.
“I always tell my clients if they’ve waited this long, a few weeks and a few months should be fine,” said Jojo Annobil, an immigration attorney with the Legal Aid Society. “These are humane policies that keep families together, and I’m hopeful they come to fruition and are implemented.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement that New York will continue to prepare for the President’s order to be implemented.
“These programs are lawful and secure, and we have your back,” he said.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.