Los Angeles immigrants react to appeals court ruling against Obama immigration plan

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A federal appeals court ruled Monday against President Barack Obama’s executive immigration plan, which would give temporary legal status to millions if enacted. On Tuesday in Los Angeles, immigrants who'd hoped the court might rule differently said they felt stung.

“I think they clipped our wings a little bit, our hopes of getting ahead," said 52-year-old Guadalupe Vega, an immigrant from Mexico who lives in Pasadena, and has been in the United States for 25 years.

A panel of Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judges decided 2-1 to uphold a lower court's block on the president's executive action, which was announced last November. Obama's plan would allow unauthorized immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and have lived at least five years in U.S. to apply for temporary legal status and work permits.

The plan would also expand a 2012 program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows temporary legal status for young immigrants under 30. It's estimated that as many as 4 million immigrants could benefit.

Last February, shortly before the plan was set to kick in, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction barring the plan from moving forward. Efforts by the Obama administration to lift it haven't succeeded.

Immigrant advocates say the decision wasn't unexpected. But it still hurts, said Karen Tumlin, legal director with the National Immigration Law Center in L.A.

"Last night's decision was very disappointing, not just for advocates but for the millions of families waiting for the opportunity to live free from fear of separation ... but it was not a surprise," Tumlin said.

Vega said she believes she would qualify for relief because she's the parent of a U.S. citizen — her youngest child out of three. She'd had her hopes up that if she could only obtain a work permit, she could do better than she does now. She works two jobs for low pay, as a janitor and at a restaurant.

"We had lots of hope that we’d have this opportunity to have ... a better job, a better position, better pay," Vega said.

Vega's two older children were born in Mexico. One of them is Alejandra Bello, 32, her oldest daughter. Bello obtained temporary legal status three years ago through deferred action. She said it's changed her life — she's studying to become a preschool teacher now, and she was hoping her mother would similarly benefit.

"It was very crushing, it was very upsetting," Bello said. "I mean a lot of these parents, they are hard workers.”

Not everyone is disappointed with the Fifth Circuit's decision. Chapman University law professor John Eastman said he agreed with the court's opinion that the Obama administration doesn't have the authority to make such a sweeping executive reform.

“I think it’s perfectly right," Eastman said of the decision. "What the Obama administration has done here is make pages and pages and pages of the immigration laws completely superfluous.”

The Obama administration has said it plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Immigrants and advocates say they hope they'll prevail there.

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