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August 25, 2019

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After president’s promise in Las Vegas, still no deportation relief in sight

President Obama Speaks At Del Sol

Steve Marcus

President Obama works the crowd after a speech on immigration at Del Sol High School Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.

Undocumented immigrants across the nation rejoiced when President Barack Obama visited Las Vegas in November to announce an ambitious new plan that would spare millions of them from deportation.

But the excitement that followed the president's promise has since turned to disappointment — Obama’s speech at Del Sol High School marked the beginning of a political and legal battle that left potential beneficiaries in limbo with no deportation relief in sight. Federal employees were supposed to begin accepting applications on Tuesday from those who stood to benefit most from the president’s plan — parents of permanent residents and U.S. citizens. Instead, Nevada’s immigration advocates marked the occasion by protesting a lawsuit that put the plan on hold. They followed the rally with a presentation answering immigrants’ questions about Obama’s directive — many remain confused about its history and potential fate.

Here’s a quick recap of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the fight that followed his Las Vegas announcement, and where things stand six months later:

Obama touted his order as a temporary solution for years of congressional inaction on finding a plan to deal with the flow of undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. from around the world.

The president’s executive actions — controversially carried out without congressional approval — expanded a 2012 directive benefiting undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children, dubbed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They also created a similar program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents that would have granted aid for parents of people living in the U.S. legally.

The second program was scheduled to roll out Tuesday, but the lawsuit stands in the way.

In Clark County, which is home to an estimated 99,000 people living in the country illegally, about 42 percent of the undocumented population would have been eligible for either program.

Political wrangling and a Republican-backed lawsuit followed Obama’s announcement, and the executive actions are now on hold.

The plan took its first hit in January, when House Republicans voted to block its funding through amendments added to a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. Two months later, a $39.7 billion package was approved without the amendments.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed in December by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (who was then serving as the state’s attorney general) began to gain traction, gradually getting the support of representatives from 26 states. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt controversially signed on to the bill without consulting first with Gov. Brian Sandoval, splitting the Republican Party and drawing fierce criticism from Nevada’s immigration activists.

A federal judge in Texas sided with the coalition of states in February, temporarily blocking the president’s executive actions. The coalition, meanwhile, is attempting to have the president’s plan thrown out completely.

The Obama administration has since tried to persuade the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans to lift the injunction.

The White House insists that the president has exclusive authority to enforce immigration laws and can adjust policies as he sees fit.

Fourteen states have sided with Obama in the case, arguing the benefits of immigration outweigh its costs.

Appellate court judges appear divided on the issue, and regardless of what they decide, the case is likely far from over. The Texas judge who ordered the injunction is still deliberating over the constitutionality of the president’s deal, and Obama’s legal team will likely appeal the decision and perhaps take the case to the Supreme Court.

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