Immigration reform activists staged rallies and protests across the United States on Tuesday as part of a national day of action, calling for the implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive actions for undocumented immigrants. The day of action fell on May 19, the original date that one of the president’s blocked executive action programs, Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), was to begin accepting applications.
Under DAPA, certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents would be eligible for deportation relief and could apply for work permits. DAPA is an offshoot of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was to be expanded on February 18. On February 16, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction against DACA’s expansion and DAPA’s launch, and both programs remain delayed.
Still, proponents of DACA and DAPA are pressuring lawmakers to push for the programs’ implementation and are preparing members of the undocumented community to be ready if and when this happens.
On Tuesday—six months after Obama first announced DAPA—immigrant rights and labor groups held demonstrations, voter registration drives and town-hall meetings in 33 cities in 20 states, many outside government buildings and the offices of lawmakers who have supported a multi-state lawsuit against the program. On social media, DAPA advocates—including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton—used the hashtag #Fight4DAPA to keep the programs on the national agenda.
At a rally in California on Tuesday, activists launched Ready California, a statewide initiative to educate undocumented immigrants about the executive action programs and ensure they are ready to apply if the injunction blocking them is overturned. California was home to nearly 2.5 million undocumented immigrants in 2012, and an estimated 1.5 million Californians would benefit from DAPA and an expanded DACA.
“We’re coming together to make sure our community is informed and prepared because we are convinced that it’s not an if— it’s a when the stay [injunction] is lifted,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told a crowd in Los Angeles. “We’ll be ready to further empower the immigrant community in California and throughout the nation to give them the protection and peace of mind they deserve.”
The legal battle over Obama’s programs is expected to take many months. Even if the administration comes out victorious, some fear that the next president could reverse the executive action programs. In the meantime, immigration advocates continue to push for the programs as steps toward relief in a legislative landscape that appears increasingly hostile to any form of comprehensive reform.