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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Times
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

In New York, Immigrants’ Advocates Vow to Fight After Judge Halts Obama Programs

Immigrants and their supporters gathered on Wednesday at rallies and news conferences in New York and across the nation to denounce a judge’s order halting President Obama’s sweeping executive actions on immigration and to vow a redoubled effort in support of the initiatives.

Coming on the day that one of the new programs was scheduled to take effect, the gatherings were as much about dispelling rumors and educating the immigrant population as about stiffening resolve and buoying hope.

“What we have met is just a bump in the road,” Representative José E. Serrano said, at a news conference in Manhattan that had the feeling of a pep rally, with dozens of participants, including immigrants, their advocates, public officials and service providers.

“What I want you to do above all is not to lose hope,” added Mr. Serrano, a Bronx Democrat.

Wednesday was supposed to be a day of celebration for many immigrants: The federal government had planned to begin accepting applications under the expansion of a program, known as deferred action, that would provide temporary relief from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

Another program that would extend deportation relief to millions of undocumented parents of American-born children was scheduled to begin in May.

But on Monday, a Federal District Court judge in Brownsville, Tex., ruled in favor of 26 states that had challenged Mr. Obama’s executive actions, issuing a temporary injunction blocking the programs. Among other reasons cited, the judge said the Obama administration had failed to follow proper procedures for amending federal rules.

The administration suspended the programs but vowed to appeal the decision.

The uncertainty now surrounding the programs has prompted immigrants’ advocates to intensify their outreach and educational efforts to their constituents.

Dozens of news conferences, rallies and educational sessions have been planned across the country this week “to show support for the immigration action and speak out against the attacks,” according to a statement from the Alliance for Citizenship, a national coalition pushing for immigration reform.

In New York, some advocates were concerned that the injunction could complicate a hard-fought effort to attract more people willing to step forward and apply for a federal deportation reprieve.

When the original deferred action program was started in 2012, participation rates in New York State were unusually low: A year into the program, only about 34 percent of the state’s eligible population had signed up, according to estimates by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.

Low turnout spurred new outreach efforts, backed in part by an extraordinary $18 million budget allocation by the New York City Council to help undocumented immigrants qualify. Participation rates a year later had grown to about 49 percent of eligible immigrants, the institute reported.

But while some immigrants’ advocates privately expressed concern about the chilling effect of the injunction, the public message on Wednesday was enthusiastic and determined.

“This is just a delay, it is not a defeat,” Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said at the news conference. “But we will need to continue the fight.”

Immigrant service organizations and others pointed out that unlike with the debut of the deferred action program in 2012, they have had three months of lead time to prepare for the launch of the new initiatives, holding workshops and strengthening their collaborative networks.

“We’re better prepared,” Javier Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy group, said in an interview, adding that those networks had already helped educate and mobilize immigrant populations in light of the judge’s ruling this week.

And while anger about the injunction was universal among advocates, some found a silver lining in it, pointing out that it gave them and their constituents more time to organize outreach efforts and prepare application packages.

“We have more time to prepare ourselves,” said Betsy Plum, director of special projects for the New York Immigration Coalition. “It’s a blessing in disguise.”

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