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Judge's Decision Complicates Matters For Unauthorized Immigrants

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Today was supposed to be the day when President Obama's executive action on immigration went into effect. That action, announced last November, would've shielded more than 4 million people from the threat of deportation. But that plan is on hold after a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction, which leaves many potential applicants in limbo while they wait for the administration to appeal. NPR's Richard Gonzales has more.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Talking to reporters in the Oval Office yesterday afternoon, Mr. Obama said he's confident the legal protections he extended were lawful. Those protections would expand to offer temporary work permits for certain immigrants brought here as children and to the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. He said his plan would get people out of the shadows.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think the American people overwhelmingly recognize that to pretend like we are going to ship them off is unrealistic and not who we are.

GONZALES: But U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas agreed with a lawsuit brought by 26 states, arguing that the president had acted outside of his authority. Mr. Obama and his aides said the administration will appeal, but they didn't say when. That's left millions of immigrants and their advocates wondering what comes next.

CHRISTOPHER MARTINEZ: I think there's a lot of confusion. I mean, I think that we - I spent the better part of the morning just trying to figure out what exactly has this impacted.

GONZALES: Christopher Martinez is director of legal services at Catholic Charities of the East Bay, one of the main groups helping immigrants with their paperwork in the San Francisco Bay Area. Martinez says he's telling his clients that the Texas judge's ruling is only a temporary block.

MARTINEZ: We still encourage people to begin gathering their documents. And those people that - the people that have already scheduled appointments with us - we're going to still serve them. We're going to help them fill out the application. We're just not going to send it.

GONZALES: Martinez says those applications will be delayed while the legal process plays out. One of the main questions he gets from clients, says Martinez, is the fate of the original program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. It was established in 2012, and it wasn't part of the original Texas lawsuit. But Judge Hanen ruled the administration can't expand it. That's not good news for people like 35-year-old Oscar Ortiz, a graduate student at San Jose State University. He was too old to qualify for the original DACA three years ago. He hoped the expanded version of DACA would allow him a work permit to pursue a career in urban planning. But even before the judge's ruling, Ortiz says he was prepared for a setback.

OSCAR ORTIZ: I'm going to be still struggling because this is not permanent. So there's very - there's a lot of uncertainty. Like, what's going to happen next? So we have to still, like, fight and do, like, demonstrations and, like, get pressure on the government to, like, act and then pass something that is permanent.

GONZALES: By something permanent, Ortiz means comprehensive immigration reform, a goal that is now stalled in Congress. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.

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