Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 slammed the Texas Federal Court’s recent decision to halt President Barack Obama’s immigration reform during a Wednesday morning roundtable discussion with New Haven immigration activists and undocumented immigrant families.
On Nov. 20, 2014, Obama announced an executive action that would provide deportation relief to up to 4.4 million people nationally. He implemented the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program to protect certain parents of U.S. citizens and expanded eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects undocumented youth who came to the country as children. On Tuesday, the Texas Attorney General, joined by over 20 states, secured a temporary injunction on DAPA and the DACA expansion, dealing a major blow to national immigration reform. The first applications for the expanded DACA program were to be accepted yesterday.
“The Texas court decision is wrong,” Blumenthal said at the roundtable discussion in New Haven. “This decision unfortunately is the result more of the bias than the facts of law. I’ve encouraged the administration to appeal, and I will support that appeal.”
According to Blumenthal, the Texas court judge hearing the decision has previously said Obama’s immigration policies endanger America and enable criminals to enter the country.
Blumenthal stressed that the court decision is just a temporary delay in the push for permanent immigration reform and reflects a setback in the court process.
Many local immigrants, accompanied by their families, shared their stories at the roundtable discussion. Jose Piscil, a New Haven factory worker currently going through deportation proceedings, said the ruling has the greatest impact on youth immigrants.
“All of our children are American citizens,” Piscil said as he pointed to his three babies. “They have the right to live here as an American would. I am very angry that this happened, and I will fight because this is something that came out of racism.”
Luis Luna, a member of the local immigrant rights group Unidad Latina en Acción, came to the U.S. in 1997 when he was 13 years old. He said he was fortunate enough to legalize his status, but he intends to fight for the millions of families whose rights are being impeded by the court order. He emphasized the need to battle what he called “hateful rhetoric and hateful action.”
Kica Matos, the director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the national Center for Community Change, said she fears that undocumented immigrants would be deterred from applying to programs like DACA because of the court’s decision.
“We need to instill a sense of confidence that the law is on our side,” said Matos. “We need as many people that are trustworthy and leaders in our community to spread the word.”
Matos’ sentiment was echoed by several other activists at the table, including Maria Praeli and Junior Sierra, members of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. They are also Dreamers — the term used for undocumented immigrant youths.
Praeli, who met with Obama earlier this month to discuss immigration reform, stressed the need for immigrants to move forward and apply for DACA despite the threat of possible deportation. She said Obama told her that increasing the number of people who apply for DACA would make it harder for congressman or judges to invalidate the program.
Ingrid Alvarez, Connecticut state director of the Hispanic Federation, said the fear of deportation deters immigrant families from fighting for their rights. She said Connecticut needs a task force to create resources, education and training for immigrants to ensure that they are not exploited.
Connecticut has long been a leader in immigration reform, according to Megan Fountain ’07, a ULA organizer. In 2013, Connecticut became the first state to pass the TRUST Act, which allows state agencies to submit to Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s request to detain an individual only if there is a serious felony conviction. Police in New Haven were instructed not to query about immigrant status, so that immigrants could feel safe seeking police protection. Currently, the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance and the ULA are working with state legislation to improve the TRUST Act.
Blumenthal pledged his best effort to keeping Connecticut at the forefront of immigration reform.
“I will do whatever it takes to encourage more families to apply, to protect them from fraud and exploitation, to urge federal authorities to pursue these remedies as quickly as possible and to speak with my colleagues so that they understand what is really at stake here,” Blumenthal said.