A 2015 ruling by a federal judge in Texas blocked President Barak Obama's efforts to greatly expand legal protections and job opportunities for undocumented immigrants in America.
The ruling, which the Obama administration estimated would impact more than 330,000 people, was a blow to the president's immigration policy, and was recently challenged for the first time—by one Martín Batalla Vidal, a 26-year-old college student who moved to New York City from Mexico when he was seven years old. Batalla Vidal filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal District Court in August that he hopes will reinstate Obama's protections in New York State. And, if a precedent could be set, across the country.
"I just thought it wasn't fair for myself and millions of other people that a judge somewhere else could affect our lives," Batalla Vidal told the New York Times in a recent interview.
In November 2014 President Obama made an executive order expanding the reach of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected its recipients from deportation for three years, rather than two. The updated DACA was also open to anyone over the age of 15, eliminating a previously-enforced age limit. An accompanying executive order created Deferred Action for Parents of Americans Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which offered similar protections to the immigrant parents of children born in the United States.
A few months later, in February, Texas Federal Judge Andrew Hanen ruled in favor of 26 states opposing the orders, stating that the Obama administration had failed to follow necessary steps in changing federal law. The new immigration policy, he said, would be an unfair burden on state budgets. That same month, Batalla Vidal received a three-year federal work permit. By May, that permit had been revoked in accordance with Hanen's ruling—Batalla Vidal's lawsuit [PDF] details—in favor of a two-year permit.
Batalla Vidal filed his lawsuit against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in August, challenging the Department of Homeland Security's revocation of his three-year permit. He was among about 2,600 DACA recipients across the country to have their three-year permits revoked, according to the NY Times.
"What we are requesting is that the Texas decision does not affect the application of the immigration relief in states that were not part of that lawsuit and that millions of immigrants who contribute to this country are taken out of the shadows," Batalla Vidal said in a statement shortly after filing suit.
Batalla Vidal's suit details how two years of DACA protection allowed him work two jobs—as a caterer, and at the desk at New York Sports Club—while supporting his mother and siblings and attending ASA College on scholarship, towards a medical assistant degree. With his two years almost up, the suit states, "Mr. Batalla Vidal's ability to start his career remains uncertain."
At a September hearing, Judge Nicholas Garaufis spoke in favor of Batalla Vidal's position. "I have absolutely no intention of simply marching behind in the parade that's going on out there in Texas, if this person has rights here," he said, according to a court transcript. The next hearing is scheduled for January.
When the Supreme Court upheld Hanen's ruling in June, Republican Nominee For Chief Wall-Builder Donald Trump responded enthusiastically, calling Obama's blocked immigration policy "one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a President."
Amy Taylor, legal director for the immigration advocacy group Make the Road New York and co-counsel on the case, said Monday that the outcome of Batalla Vidal's case rests heavily on the November election.
"Because of the timing of this lawsuit, we definitely won't have a decision before election day, and probably not before inauguration," she said. "So that really places a great deal of importance on the new administration."
"We feel very hopeful that under a Clinton administration we could come to an agreement that if the judge issues an injunction stating that the Texas ruling should not reach New York, it could possibly reach other states as well," she added. "I don't think any of us are holding out any hope that there would be a positive decision from a Trump administration."