City and Local Organizations to Help Immigrants Despite Challenges to New Policies

Department of Neighborhoods and Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative launch website for immigrants

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 2/18/2015, 2:57 p.m.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker today announced the launch of a new informational website for immigrants who are interested in applying ...
Mayor Annise Parker

Website features information about citizenship and deferred action

Houston Mayor Annise Parker today announced the launch of a new informational website for immigrants who are interested in applying for citizenship or deferred action. The new website is the product of a partnership between the City’s Department of Neighborhoods Office of International Communities (OIC) and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC). The partnership was established last December in response to President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

“We formed this partnership with one simple goal in mind—to make sure that Houston is prepared for the implementation of the President’s executive order,” said Mayor Parker. “I am certain the recent court order delaying implementation of the President’s order will be temporary. When it is lifted, Houstonians affected who will be able to take advantage of the President’s order need access to accurate information and a way to connect with reputable organizations that can help them. With the launch of this new website, I’m pleased to report that Houston is ready.”

The website provides access to accurate, up-to-date information about applying for citizenship and new “deferred action” programs that offer the right to stay in the U.S. and work permits to eligible undocumented immigrants. The site will help people find trusted community organizations for legal guidance and assistance.

“The new immigration policies will have a huge impact on our community,” said Wafa Abdin, Vice President of Immigration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance, a member of HILSC. “We are the largest provider of low-cost legal services for immigrants in Houston. We are working with our colleagues in the Houston region to address the increased demand from immigrants seeking accurate information and legal assistance as pertains to the expanded DACA and the new DAPA program.”

President's Immigration Executive Order

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced executive actions to help undocumented Americans gain the right to temporarily stay and work in the U.S. With over 1.3 million immigrants, the Greater Houston metropolitan area has one of the highest concentrations and fastest growing immigrant and refugee populations in the country. More than 200,000 undocumented immigrants in the Houston region will be eligible for legal status through the new programs.

The policy changes include an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. Under deferred action, the government will not place people who meet certain requirements into deportation proceedings. It does not mean that a person will get a visa or a green card and it is not a path to citizenship. However, a person with deferred action is temporarily protected from deportation and is eligible for a work permit for three years with the option to renew.

Legal Challenges to New Programs

The applications for the expanded DACA program were expected to be available starting on February 18. On Monday, however, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas issued a temporary injunction against the new policies. The injunction does not pronounce the policies illegal, but it prevents the administration from implementing them until the court rules on their constitutionality. It is expected that the case will proceed to the 5th Circuit Court and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.