President Barack Obama’s administration on Tuesday delayed implementing his unilateral steps to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation after a judge blocked the actions at the urging of 26 states accusing Obama of exceeding his powers.
In a setback to the president, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, a city along the Texas border with Mexico, issued a temporary court order on Monday stopping Obama’s executive actions that bypassed a gridlocked Congress.
Hanen’s action left in disarray U.S. policy toward the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the administration will comply with the judge’s order and will delay accepting applications from some of the illegal immigrants for deportation relief and work permits that had been set to begin on Wednesday.
In an order filed on Monday, the judge, Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, in Brownsville, prohibited the Obama administration from carrying out programs the president announced on Nov. 20 that would offer protection from deportation and work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants…
“The court finds that the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country,” Judge Hanen wrote. “Further, the record supports the finding that this lack of enforcement, combined with the country’s high rate of illegal immigration, significantly drains the states’ resources.”…
In his opinion, Judge Hanen accused administration officials of being “disingenuous” when they said the president’s initiatives did not significantly alter existing policies. He wrote that the programs were “a massive change in immigration practice” that would affect “the nation’s entire immigration scheme and the states who must bear the lion’s share of its consequences.” He said the executive actions had violated laws that the federal government must follow to issue new rules, and he determined “the states have clearly proven a likelihood of success on the merits.”
Defenders of Obama’s DACA and DAPA programs often note that the Supreme Court has been very clear about the supremacy of the federal government over the states on immigration policy.
But, as Judge Hanen notes very early in his opinion, “deferred action,” the legal basis for Obama’s DACA and DAPA program, was never created by Congress. “Deferred action is not a status created or authorized by law or by Congress, nor has its properties been described in any relevant legislative act,” Hanen writes on page 15. “The Government must concede that there is no specific law or statute that authorizes DAPA,” he repeats on page 90.
Instead, Hanen notes, the Obama administration relies on two “general grants of discretion” in immigration law to support the DAPA program. But, as Hanen goes on to explain, if anything these statutes create separate and specific ways the Secretary of Homeland Security can offer legal status to illegal immigrants. But Obama’s DAPA program does not follow the processes these two other statutes created. Instead, DAPA created a brand new program out of whole cloth after Congress specifically debated and ultimately rejected new laws like Obama’s DAPA program.
Statement by the Press Secretary on State of Texas v. United States of America
The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.
The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority. Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.
Jeb Bush, seizing on a federal judge’s ruling Tuesday, took to Facebook to attack President Barack Obama over his executive action on immigration.
“Last year, the president overstepped his executive authority and, in turn, hurt the effort toward a commonsense immigration solution,” the former Florida governor wrote. “That’s not leadership. The millions of families affected across the country deserve better.”
“Now, more than ever, we need President Obama to work with Congress to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system,” Bush added.
Alabama senator Jeff Sessions says Congress must respect the injunction that blocks President Obama’s executive amnesty, which was issued by a federal judge for the Southern District of Texas. Sessions, the Republican chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, says he believes the court’s ruling is an affirmation that the president’s executive actions on immigration are illegal.
“The President has acted unconstitutionally, and it is the President — not Congress — who must back down,” Sessions says in a statement. “We cannot and must not establish the precedent that we will fund illegal actions on the hope that another branch of government will intervene and strike down that illegal action at some later point.”
How does these effect the DHS funding debate in Congress? Nobody knows. Speaker John Boehner issued a statement Tuesday urging “Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach” to now “let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security department.” The statement is a direct shot at Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Al Franken (D-MN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) all of whom have questioned the legality of Obama’s amnesty but have voted to prevent any debate on the House Department of Homeland Security bill that defunds Obama’s amnesty programs.
Since the order leaves the existing DACA program in place, while preventing the new DAPA program from being implemented, it is possible a compromise could be reached by both parties where the DHS bill would continue to defund the DAPA program, but Democratic Senators could offer amendments preserving DACA program. Moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has floated exactly such a compromise.
Yet the injunction issued shortly after midnight Tuesday could offer Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a way out of the jam—if they decide to take it. With the president’s policy now in legal limbo, the GOP could strip out the immigration provisions from the DHS funding bill and defer to the courts, a move that would allow the party leadership to save face while preserving a legislative fight for the future…
In a legal dispute between the states and the federal government, the final word often belongs to the Supreme Court, and the case might not reach the justices for months. That could mean a lengthy period of uncertainty for immigrants seeking a resolution to their legal status. But the decisions over the next few weeks will have important political ramifications as well, particularly for the thousands of Department of Homeland Security employees who are waiting for Congress to decide if—and when—they’ll get paid.
Other proponents of Obama’s immigration action emphasized that a district court judge doesn’t have the final say. Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, called Hanen’s injunction “far outside the legal mainstream.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) backed the administration’s declaration that the president’s actions were lawful, adding that, “every president since Eisenhower has used his authority to refine our immigration system.”
“How sad for our impacted DREAMers and their families, how necessary it is for an immediate appeal of this ruling,” she said, mentioning the group of undocumented immigrants brought to America as children.
The government was set to begin accepting applications for the expansion on Wednesday, and the last-minute stop left some immigrants frustrated on Tuesday.
“I was very devastated,” said Francisco Dominguez, 20, of Phoenix, who had been planning to apply for the expanded DACA program. He came from Mexico with his parents when he was 5 years old and stayed in the U.S. after the family’s visa’s expired. “That was the beacon of hope, and then all of a sudden, it hasn’t disappeared, but let’s just say the light got a little darker.”…
Debbie Smith, associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union, said families should continue to prepare applications on the assumption that the program will eventually be upheld.
“Our message to our families is ‘don’t panic, keep preparing, keep gathering documents,’” she said. “We think this is a time out, a bump in the road. It’s not the end of the game.”
“What they are doing to the community, they are taking what little hope they have from not being deported or having a work permit or having a better view of the American Dream,” Arteaga said. “They are taking what little vision we have and are throwing it away and tearing it apart.”…
For Ivan Reyes, 34, the decision means a chance for getting out of illegal status has slipped away again. His father gained legal residency under the 1986 amnesty program, but had never applied for his children to get legal residency. His father had died and Reyes, in the country since he was 11 has been told by lawyers he can’t become a legal resident.
“We’ve been here like this for how long? Twenty years already,” Reyes said. “I just feel the country did wrong because the people that want to get ahead with their life and study and maybe be an engineer, a programmer, a doctor, a lawyer or something . . . With this nobody wants to go to school anymore because you got to school for what? They aren’t even going to look at you for a job,” said Reyes…
Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy for United We Dream, said her group has been fielding a lot of questions about the impact of the decision. She said she saw the lawsuit as an effort by Republicans to send a chilling effect throughout the community so people don’t come forward. The message the GOP is sending the community is not to wait, she said, but “we want to deport you.”