Immigration Policy Injunction Stirs Differing Opinions In Arkansas

Feb 17, 2015

A recent decision by a federal district judge in Texas to issue an injunction, blocking President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration has drawn praise from Arkansas’s chief legal officer and criticism from one of the state’s leading immigrants’ rights groups.

Late Monday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a temporary injunction, bringing a stop to the president’s deferred action program. A lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was brought by 26 states. Arkansas joined those states on December 10th of last year, at the urging of then Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge.

On Tuesday, Rutledge released the following statement praising Hanen’s decision.

“This ruling, which blocks the President’s unlawful executive action on immigration nationwide, is an important victory in reigning in a President who has attempted to bypass Congress. As I stated when the State joined the lawsuit, this federal administrative action on immigration is another example of overreach and raises important questions about public input into the administrative process, the conflict between the discretionary powers of the executive branch and the constitutional requirement of the President to faithfully enforce the laws.

“As this case moves forward, I will stand against the President’s unconstitutional and unilateral action in order to protect the interest of all Arkansans.”

Meanwhile, the Arkansas United Community Coalition, one of the state’s most influential immigrants’ rights groups, also released a statement characterizing the federal judge’s ruling as being “against immigrant families.”

“This is just the first round in a long, drawn out legal process. Hundreds of legal scholars agree that the President's executive action on immigration are constitutional and within his authority. We are confident that the court system will eventually reject this meritless lawsuit that only wastes taxpayer dollars, confuses and ultimately disenfranchises immigrant workers and families, and robs much needed revenue from our state economy,” said Mireya Reith, director of the AUCC.

According to the group’s statement, there are an estimated 60,000 undocumented immigrants living in Arkansas. The AUCC says nearly 30,000 of them would qualify for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s deferred action program.

The program would allow undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or 5-year legal residents to apply for work permits and legal documentation lasting over a 3-year period. It also applies to minors who arrived illegally in the U.S. before January 2010. President Obama announced the executive action in November of last year.

The latest immigration executive action followed the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action which extended rights to undocumented immigrants  if they arrived illegally in the United States by June 2007 before reaching their 16th birthday.

The lawsuit against the DHS’s policy was first brought by then-Texas Attorney General (and now Governor) Greg Abbott on December 3rd. At the time, Abbott was joined by 16 other Attorneys General around the country.

The AUCC said Obama’s Policy on immigration, which allowed eligible immigrants to apply for work permits as early as February 18th, “would mean increased sales tax revenue for local and state coffers, as the demand for goods and services rises, more jobs would be created, and an increase in wages for all Arkansans.”

The group’s press release also includes a statement from Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, who said, “last night’s preliminary injunction preventing all these immigrants the opportunity to more fully integrate and continue contributing to their communities would most assuredly harm cities, like Little Rock, and is not in the public interest.”  

The AUCC has been hosting forums throughout the state since the President’s November announcement, helping immigrants understand and navigate their options resulting from the policy. Several more events are planned for the remainder of February. They include forums in Dermott, Hamburg, Springdale, Russellville, Little Rock, Hope and DeQueen.