Last month a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that President Obama’s new immigration policies are unconstitutional. According to the Wall Street Journal, Judge Arthur Schwab wrote that the president’s new policy “violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution.” The judge also argued that the changes went beyond prosecutorial discretion and were unconstitutional. Because the president’s discretionary powers are meant to be used on a case-by-case basis, a broad and rigid policy like his new DACA changes were beyond his powers as chief executive. The judge also argued that this program was violating immigration laws by allowing illegal immigrants to become quasi American citizens.
What Are President Obama’s New Immigration Policies (DACA)?
In 2012, the president created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which gave very specific types of illegal immigrants the ability to apply for work permits and temporary relief from deportation. There are very specific requirements to qualify, most importantly that the individual was brought to the United States before they turned 16 years old and that they graduated high school or are currently in school.
Judge Arthur Schwab is responding to President Obama’s November 20th decision to expand DACA to a larger group of illegal immigrants. Additional individuals who were brought into the country as children are now eligible to apply for DACA programs, as well as the parents of US citizens. Although these people are not eligible to apply for citizenship, using the DACA program, they may receive work permits and temporary relief from deportation. This protection from deportation is only temporary, so applicants will have to reapply after a few years. In addition, serious crimes and other circumstances can invalidate this protection and lead to deportation. Newly eligible individuals are invited to begin applying this spring. If you or a loved one is interested in applying to the DACA program, you should contact our immigration lawyers at Bighorn Law today. We can help you determine if you meet all the requirements for eligibility and then work with you to collect all the necessary forms and documents to apply.
What Does This Court Case Mean for DACA?
At this time, this court case means nothing. As the Wall Street Journal states, this declaration of unconstitutionality was very unusual and has no direct effect on the president’s program. Judge Schwab was not deciding a court case regarding the constitutionality of DACA. He was actually deciding a case about a Honduran immigrant who re-entered the country unlawfully. Of his 38-page ruling, only four pages were about the Obama program. Legal scholars are already saying that his inclusion of DACA in his decision was peculiar and may make his decision more vulnerable to review by a higher court. Some have also attacked his distinction between case-by-case discretion and a set policy saying that even case-by-case decisions have to follow some set of guidelines.
Whether or not Judge Schwab’s decision has greater ramifications in the future, the DACA program, as of now, is still legal and active. If you are interested in determining your eligibility, please contact our immigration lawyers as soon as you can.