Washington — Fed up with inaction from the Obama administration, Jose Luis Piscil, an undocumented worker who lives in New Haven, has sued federal immigration officials to limit deportations — even as President Obama is on the verge of taking steps to change the status of millions of undocumented workers.
Piscil, 26, is one of five immigrants currently in deportation proceedings who filed an official rulemaking petition with the Department of Homeland Security in February, asking the agency to delay deportations of immigrants with ties to the community and no criminal records.
Since DHS did not respond, Piscil and the other plaintiffs traveled to Washington Thursday to file their lawsuit in federal court.
The Obama administration has deported a record number of people, an average of about 1,000 a day. The administration says it’s concentrating on removing criminal aliens and those caught crossing the border.
Piscil says his case proves that’s not true because he has a clean police record and has lived in the United States for years.
“(U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is out of control, Piscil said. “We need action, not words, from President Obama.”
Obama has been promising to use his authority to give millions of undocumented immigrants legal status since last summer, after a flood of immigrant children from Central American crossed the Rio Grande.
But immigrant advocates are frustrated Obama postponed any action until after the elections. Now newly empowered Republican leaders threaten to sink any White House initiative if the president takes action.
To Piscil, the GOP electoral victories, which flipped the Senate to Republican control and increased the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, increase the reasons for Obama to move before a new Congress convenes in January.
“He should have done this a long time ago, and he should do it now because his influence is slipping away,” said Piscil, who stone worker who emigrated from Mexico eight years ago.
Yet Democrats are asking Obama to go slow on his plans.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he urged the president not to take executive action on immigration until December because Republicans say such a move could derail funding for the government.
“The president has said he’s going to do the executive action — the question is when he can do it. It’s up to him,” Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I’d like to get the finances of this country out of the way before he does it.”
Meanwhile, Piscil hopes he and other advocates will influence federal immigration officials to stop deportations.
He took a copy of his lawsuit to DHS headquarters In Washington, D.C., but was stopped by police from entering the building.
He tried to give his lawsuit to the police officials, but they refused to take it.
“They were afraid of a piece of paper,” he said.
Extending Protections to the Undocumented
On Oct. 1 the Department of Homeland Security issued its latest report on removals, a document that confirmed what immigration advocates had already guessed – that Obama has deported well over 2 million people during his time in office.
The report said the DHS deported about 438,000 immigrants from the United States in 2013, a record number. The leading countries of origins for those deported immigrants were Mexico, (72 percent), Guatemala (11 percent), Honduras (8.3 percent) and El Salvador (4.8 percent).
The Department of Homeland Security also said 44 percent of the undocumented migrants apprehended last year were deported by “expedited removal,” or without a hearing before an immigration judge.
Piscil, who met his wife in the United States and has two young U.S.-born children who are citizens, said he’s fighting a 2012 deportation order. But he’s running out of time.
The president is reportedly considering using his authority to allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents — like Piscil and his wife — to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being deported and separated from family members.
It’s difficult to determine how many immigrants in Connecticut that would affect — an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration research organization in Washington, said it could impact as many as 3.3 million migrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years.
Connecticut has a diverse immigrant community with members from South America, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and Africa. Many are here legally, but an estimated 55,000 to 100,000 are undocumented, like Piscil and his wife.
The president stepped up deportations after he assumed office in 2009 because he hoped being tough on enforcement would encourage Republicans to support a comprehensive immigration plan.
But that strategy failed. A comprehensive bill was approved in the Democratic- controlled Senate but stalled in the GOP-led House.
With Republicans holding control of both chambers next year, there’s little chance of congressional action on immigration.
Since Congress was gridlocked, Obama used his authority to issue a memorandum called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in 2012.
It directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal agencies involved in the apprehension and deportation of the undocumented to practice “prosecutorial discretion” toward those who immigrated to the United States as children and were in the country without legal status.
On a case-by-case basis, the administration allowed immigrants who were at least 15 years old and met certain criteria, including a clean police record, to be granted, for a period of two years and subject to renewal, employment authorization and the right to pay in-state college tuition and obtain drivers’ licenses in many states.
Now Obama is considering extending those protections to more undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and to their parents. That could affect an additional one million or more immigrants.
The president may also expand opportunities for immigrants who have high-tech skills, something Connecticut companies have long lobbied for.
The Obama administration is expected to continue deportations of convicted criminals, foreigners who pose national security risks and recent border crossers.
Megan Fountain of Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA) of Connecticut, a New Haven-based immigrant advocate group, said the president has used his authority to increase deportations, and he should reverse course quickly.
“We are going to continue pushing him,” she said.