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US states challenge Obama immigration order

[JURIST] A coalition of 17 states led by Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott [official website] filed suit [press release] against President Barack Obama [official profile] Wednesday challenging his executive action [JURIST report] on immigration. Abbott sharply criticized the president's action stating that "[t]he President is abdicating his responsibility to faithfully enforce laws that were duly enacted by Congress and attempting to rewrite immigration laws, which he has no authority to do." Obama has previously defended his action, arguing that he was forced to act on immigration reform unilaterally because of Congress' failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. In remarks [text] delivered Wednesday before the Business Roundtable [official website] Obama acknowledged the controversy generated by his executive action, but stated that "[immigration reform] is the right thing to do for our economy." The states' case was filed in the US District Court in the Southern District of Texas [official website]. The coalition includes Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial and heavily politicized area of law at both the state and federal level. In November a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] struck down [JURIST report] an Arizona law that made smuggling immigrants a state crime because it conflicts with federal laws governing immigration. In August 2013 the Obama administration released [JURIST report] a policy directive known as the "Family Interest Directive" emphasizing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should apply "prosecutorial discretion" towards undocumented immigrant parents of minors to limit detaining parents and to safeguard their parental rights. In June 2013 the US Senate approved [JURST report] a bill which would create new pathways to US citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the US. That bill was subsequently not approved by the House.

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