In the News

San Diego supporters of President Barack Obama’s plans to protect millions of unauthorized immigrants nationwide from deportation said Tuesday they would not be deterred by a Texas federal judge’s order putting the plans on hold.

“Sí se puede,” Yes we can, chanted a crowd of about 50 demonstrators at Christ the King Community Catholic Church in San Diego. Participants included U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, immigration activists and representatives of labor groups.

Vargas and other speakers discounted the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen as a “bump in the road” in efforts to legalize the status of millions of unauthorized immigrants across the United States.

“We have to continue to push. In no way get your spirits down,” Vargas said. “We feel 100 percent that this judge is going to be overturned.”

The rally, organized by Alliance San Diego and the Service Employees International Union Local 221, came on the heels of Hanen’s order siding with Texas and 25 other states seeking to block the Obama administration’s executive orders.

The ruling freezes plans that starting Wednesday would have expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program that protects young immigrants from deportation. Another program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, which had been set to launch in May, would offer similar protection to parents of children who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents and who have been in the United States for several years.

Rally leaders were critical of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, for not joining an effort spearheaded by two Democrats, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to file a brief in the Texas case supporting the president.

“We call on Mayor Kevin Faulconer ... to stand up for his fellow San Diegans and do the right thing, not play politics with this issue and support our families,” said Richard Barrera, head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council.

A statement from Faulconer’s press office Tuesday said that the mayor “strongly supports comprehensive immigration reform.” The Texas judge’s ruling, the statement said, “demonstrates that the current approach is not providing the legal and legislative certainty that families in San Diego and across the country are looking for.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, was critical of the president, saying in a statement that the judge’s ruling “recognized the direct damage and irreparable harm that will be caused by President Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions.” Issa said that Obama’s proposal “is both bad for America and bad for the very people it purports to help, ultimately leaving them in legal limbo, rather than finally taking decisive action.”

Like Vargas, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, sides with the president, said his spokeswoman, MaryAnne Pintar: “The congressman believes that the best course would be for the speaker of the House to let Congress do its job, and pass an immigration reform bill. In the absence of that, the president had to act.”

Two other members of the San Diego County congressional delegation, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, did not respond to a request for comment.

Speaking Tuesday in support of the president’s plan was Guadalupe Noriega, 39, a resident of southeast San Diego who said she could be eligible for both the DACA and DAPA programs. Noriega was 14 when her mother brought her to the United States from her native Mexico, and now has a son enrolled at University of California Merced. She told the crowd that legalizing her status “means that I’d be able to get a better job, and that I’d be able to continue helping my son with his studies.”

Organizers of the rally said they had been planning it as a celebratory and informational event to discuss how to move forward under the expanded DACA program. But they said they also were aware of that the judge’s order could stall the program.

“We are going to be moving forward to make sure that every single San Diegan gets the benefits that they deserve from the actions of the president,” said Christian Ramírez, Human Rights Director for Alliance San Diego.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute, of an estimated 181,000 unauthorized immigrants living in San Diego County, more than half -- or 91,000 residents -- would be eligible for either the DACA or the DAPA programs.