Outcome of immigration executive action remains uncertain

In April, an appeals court will decide whether to stay an injunction against the executive action that could benefit over 500,000 immigrants in Texas.

In 2014, President Obama announced an executive action that would allow deferred action on deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. In February, however, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked this immigration program, according to The Wall Street Journal. Fortunately for immigrants in San Antonio, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to allow an expedited appeal of this action. The appeal, which is scheduled for April, could stay the federal injunction and allow the program to proceed.

Legal challenges

During the appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court will consider the legality of the executive action and the validity of the injunction. The federal judge who issued the ruling contends that the president acted beyond his authority in issuing the executive action. Meanwhile, the Obama administration holds that the federal government has authority in immigration law, making the executive action valid.

If the Fifth Circuit Court issues a stay, preparations for the implementation of the immigration program may proceed. If the court upholds the injunction, the temporary freeze on the program will continue. In either case, the Supreme Court may eventually have to decide the fate of the immigration program.

Program scope

If the program is ultimately permitted to proceed, it will not guarantee citizenship or permanent residency to qualifying immigrants. However, it will offer deferred action on deportation proceedings and allow more immigrants to qualify for work authorizations. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the program establishes the following changes:

· Investors, scientists and other skilled workers may more easily receive immigrant visas.

· More spouses, sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents may qualify for provisional waivers of unlawful presence.

· The parents of citizens and lawful residents may be eligible for deferred action on deportation for a three-year period. These parents may also request employment authorization for the same length of time. To qualify, parents must pass background checks, and they must have resided in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010.

· More immigrants who were brought to the U.S. at an early age may qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. People who arrived before age 16 may be eligible for the program, regardless of their current age. These immigrants can only qualify for the program if they have lived in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010.

These changes could have significant effects on immigrants living in Texas. According to The Texas Tribune, more undocumented immigrants live in Texas than in any other state, save California. An estimated 533,000 immigrants who are parents of citizens or legal residents could qualify for deferred action. Even more immigrants may benefit from the other changes outlined in the executive action.

Seeking assistance

If the immigration program is allowed to proceed, establishing eligibility may still be a demanding task for some immigrants. Furthermore, pursuing legal residency or citizenship, which the program does not guarantee, may also prove difficult. For undocumented immigrants who are handling either of these challenges, the help of an immigrating attorney may be invaluable.