NY Dreamer Challenges Nationwide Immigration Injunction

A first-of-its-kind lawsuit filed Thursday, August 25 opened up a new front in the defense of the Obama administration’s 2014 immigration relief initiatives, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (expanded DACA).

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York by Martín Batalla Vidal, a DACA recipient, challenges the reach of the unlawfully broad injunction in United States v. Texas, the case brought by Texas and 25 other states challenging DAPA and expanded DACA. If successful, the new lawsuit would fix a wrongdoing suffered by thousands of DACA recipients who are not party to the Texas case and could reinstate both initiatives in some parts of the country, providing relief for millions of families. Batalla Vidal, 25, is a longtime resident of New York who came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was seven years old. He is represented by Make the Road New York (MRNY), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School.

“When I first filed for DACA, I was excited to get a three-year work permit and move forward with my life,” said Batalla Vidal, a member of Make the Road New York who is studying to be a medical assistant and also works to help support his family. “That was taken away by one judge in Texas, and it’s not fair for me and for thousands of others affected. I’m filing this lawsuit for myself and the thousands of others like me who have been wronged by this judge’s decision.”

In February 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved Batalla Vidal for a three-year work permit under newly issued rules for DACA. That same month, Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of the federal district court in Southern Texas, issued an injunction that blocked DAPA and the expansion of DACA nationwide based on claims of incurred costs by Texas. The federal government relied on that injunction to wrongfully revoke three-year work permits that had been issued to thousands of DACA recipients across the country, including to Batalla Vidal, according to the lawsuit.

“Martín and many others like him are being hurt by a lawsuit in which Texas is the only state that any court has said could stand to lose as a result of the DAPA program,” said Melissa Keaney, a staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center.  “But, the burden of this injunction is painfully real for Martín and the many others impacted. Filing for a renewal of DACA every two years is costly and time intensive, and it can prevent people from fulfilling academic and professional goals or taking on other major life steps that require advance planning.”

Through this lawsuit, Batalla Vidal seeks reinstatement of his three-year work permit because its revocation on the basis of the overbroad injunction was unlawful. Furthermore, by challenging the scope of the Texas injunction, the lawsuit could lead to the reinstatement of DAPA and expanded DACA for millions of families in states that are not part of the Texas lawsuit.

“The government itself has said the judge in Texas lacked jurisdiction to apply his injunction here in New York,” said Will Bloom ’17, a law student intern in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. “Judge Hanen has confused Brownsville, Texas, with Brownsville, Brooklyn.”

Announced in 2012, DACA allows some young undocumented immigrants such as Batalla Vidal who came to the U.S. as children to live and work in the country temporarily if they meet certain eligibility requirements.

In November 2014, the Obama administration sought to build on the success of that initiative by expanding eligibility requirements to more immigrant youth and by creating the DAPA program, which would similarly allow some undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children to live and work in the country temporarily. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security announced that new and renewing DACA applicants would be approved for three- rather than two-year periods. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began issuing three-year work permits that same month.

In December 2014, Texas and 25 other states sued to stop the implementation of DAPA and expansion of DACA. In February 2015, Judge Hanen issued a nationwide injunction blocking both programs. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June of this year deadlocked 4-4, issuing no decision.

Batalla Vidal’s own home state of New York has attested to the benefits of DACA and DAPA, including before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“New York and its leaders have embraced immigrant communities and President Obama’s immigration relief,” said Javier H. Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York. “There’s no reason the injunction from Texas should block progress in New York and similar states. It’s time to right the wrong done to these families by Judge Hanen and take long-overdue steps to keep families together.”

Approximately 60 percent of individuals eligible for DAPA and expanded DACA live outside of states involved in the Texas case.

The complaint filed today is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Batalla-Vidal-v-Baren-et-al-complaint-2016-08-25.pdf