Homeland Security delays accepting DACA applications
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Homeland Security delays accepting DACA applications

The day before federal officials were set to begin accepting applications for work permits and deportation deferrals under President Obama's executive action program, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Tuesday that his agency had to comply with an eleventh-hour order by a federal judge in Texas and suspend the program until further notice. 

Johnson wrote that he strongly disagreed with the decision to temporarily halt implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, both announced in November by the president. 

Johnson said that the the Department of Justice would appeal the ruling, but in the meantime officials would not accept applications for DACA on Feb. 18, as had been scheduled, and a future plan to accept requests for DAPA was scrubbed. 

"The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and even other courts have said that our actions are well within our legal authority," Johnson said. "Our actions will also benefit the economy and promote law enforcement. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do." 

Johnson noted that the 2012 DACA program was not affected by the court's order, and his agency was still able to set and implement enforcement priorities as outlined by his Nov. 20, 2014, memorandum, which set priorities for immigration enforcement based on public safety, national security, and border security. 

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen granted a temporary injunction against the plan siding with 26 states, including Texas and Arizona, that sued arguing that the program is an overreach by the president and would cost the states financially. 

U.S. Sen. John McCain celebrated the decision, arguing that Obama had exceeded his authority on immigration. 

"As this issue works its way through the courts, I urge the president and Democrats to work with Republicans in Congress to secure our border once and for all and not intentionally and unilaterally subvert the rule of law," McCain said. 

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Ariz. Rep. Raul Grijalva called the decision disappointing, but said he was "heartened that relief will come to those struggling through our broken immigration system." 

"This injunction is not the result of sound legal action – it is the result of a lawsuit shopped around by Attorneys General and governors intent on undermining the president’s efforts," Grijalva said. "The fact that they found a judge in Texas with a pre-disposition against the President and immigrant communities does not grant merit to their misguided causes."

In Tucson, around a dozen members and volunteers with Mi Familia Vota held a press conference at the State of Arizona building, 400 W. Congress St., to show their support for deferred action. 

Holding a sign that read "Si Se Pueda con DAPA," or "Yes we can with DAPA" immigration activist Eduardo Sainz said that Monday's order was an unfortunate speed bump.

"We are confident that we will win," Sainz said. "While conservatives are using the courts as a way to stop immigration reform, we know we can move forward. People should keep saving their money for the application fees and keep putting together the documents they are going to need to apply." 

Jesus Magana, a community member and activist, said that the order was a waste of time and money. "We've already seen this kind of action with driver's licenses for dreamers in this state and it just doesn't work," Magana said. "Ultimately we will be victorious and it's important for the community to know this and keep getting together what they need to apply." 

Magana was referring to Arizona's attempt to keep driver's licenses from DACA recipients, a two-year court battle that ultimately ended in late December when a federal judge ordered the state to issue licenses overturning a 2012 executive decision by then-governor Jan Brewer. 

Immigration activists will continue to hold forums at Pueblo High School so applicants for both DACA and DAPA can meet with volunteers and get their questions answered. 

Meanwhile, Judge Hanen's decision comes at a difficult time for the Department of Homeland Security, which has been operating on a continuing resolution set to expire on Feb. 27. Without a funding bill, parts of Homeland Security will be shut down, however, the arm of DHS responsible for granting applications could continue to operate since it's funded by fees. 

The DHS shutdown would instead furlough around 15 percent of its personnel, while leaving "essential operations" like Border Patrol and TSA operating. 

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While in Phoenix to overview preparations for the SuperBowl, Johnson told an audience at Arizona State University that without a funding bill, DHS "cannot do the things that Congress wants me to do" including border security and funding for local law enforcement. 

Last year, Johnson and the White House asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to pay for the surge of unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, but Congress rebuffed his request. Johnson responded by shifting more than $405 million from the disaster relief fund and the Transportation Security Agency. 

However, two bills that would provide funding for Homeland Security have been hung up due to wrangling over the president's executive action. 

On Jan. 16, the House of Representatives passed a funding bill while cutting funding for the deferred action programs. Republicans voted overwhelmingly for the bill, and Arizona's own delegation split along party lines.  

A similar bill in the Senate collapsed when it failed to get 60 votes needed to pass a Democrat-led filibuster, leaving the funding of the agency in doubt. 

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A dozen people in Tucson showed their support for deferred action as part of a series of public actions around the country organized by Mi Familia Vota.