A federal judge temporarily blocked President Obama’s unilateral executive action on immigration impacting some 5 million illegal immigrants, allowing a lawsuit aimed at permanently stopping the orders to move forward.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen granted the preliminary injunction requested by 26 states Monday, which was less than one day before the action was set for implementation. Judge Hanen ruled after hearing arguments in Brownsville, Texas last month, writing in a memorandum accompanying his order that the lawsuit should go forward and that without a preliminary injunction the states will “suffer irreparable harm in this case.”
“The genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle,” Judge Hanen wrote, flat-out stating that he agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that the burden on states from legalizing the millions of people is sufficient for standing, He said the order — if allowed to take effect — would be a “virtually irreversible” action.
The first of Obama’s orders — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — was set to start taking effect Wednesday. The other major part of Obama’s order, which extends deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, was not expected to begin until May 19.
A statement by White House press secretary Josh Earnest insisted that Obama’s executive actions were within the bounds of legality.
“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,” Earnest said. “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.”
An appeal by the administration would be handled by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. But experts say the opinion is lawful, valid and predict it will stand.
“I’d predict the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Houston will not interfere,” says Judge Andrew Napolitano, a judicial analyst and former federal judge. “I read the 250 pages and its thorough, complete, and a very sound opinion within the law.”
Judge Hanen, who was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2002, routinely hears border cases but wasn’t known for being outspoken on immigration until a 2013 case. In his ruling in that case, the judge said the Obama administration was involved in the “criminal conspiracy” involving defendant Mirtha Veronica Nava-Martinez, a mother who paid $6,000 to smuggle her child from El Salvador to Virginia.
Hanen suggested the Homeland Security Department should be arresting parents living in the U.S. illegally who induce their children to cross the border illegally.
The coalition, which was first filed by then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who was solidly elected to governor last November, argued that Obama violated the Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires the president to faithfully execute, or enforce, the law passed by Congress, not write them. They plaintiffs also say the order will force increased investment in law enforcement, health care and education.
“Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the President’s overreach in its tracks,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
In their request for the injunction, the coalition said it was necessary because it would be “difficult or impossible to undo the President’s lawlessness after the Defendants start granting applications for deferred action.”
Congressional Republicans have vowed to block Obama’s actions on immigration by cutting off Homeland Security Department spending for the program. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled House passed a $39.7 billion spending bill to fund the department through the end of the budget year, but attached language to undo Obama’s executive actions. The fate of that House-passed bill is unclear as Republicans in the Senate are six votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to advance most legislation.
Others supporting Obama’s executive order include a group of 12 mostly liberal states, including Washington and California, as well as the District of Columbia. They filed a motion with Hanen in support of Obama, arguing the directives will substantially benefit states and will further the public interest.
A group of largely unelected law enforcement officials, including the Major Cities Chiefs Association, also filed a motion in support of the order. While the vast majority of vocal elected sheriffs are opposed to the order, the chiefs at the MCCA argue the executive action will improve public safety by encouraging cooperation between police and individuals with concerns about their immigration status.
The states now suing Obama over his unilateral amnesty order now includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
While the involved states are largely concentrated in the mid-West and the South, voters nationwide are opposed to the president’s move. Polls conducted both prior and after the president took executive action, are conclusive.
This marks the second ruling on the order, though the first dealt with an unrelated lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab in Pennsylvania said in December that Obama’s immigration order was effectively “legislation” handed down from the Executive Branch, thus invalid and unconstitutional.
“President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore, is unconstitutional,” Judge Schwab wrote.