Federal judge blocks Obama’s executive action on immigration

Federal judge blocks Obama’s executive action on immigration

[JURIST] A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday temporarily blocked [order, PDF] two key parts of a recent immigration initiative announced by US President Barack Obama [official website] that would halt the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. Obama announced two programs [text] in November, purportedly under his executive authority as President. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) would lift the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented residents by allowing immigrants that have been in the US for more than five years or have children who are citizens to register and pass a criminal background check in order to stay in the country. Twenty-six states sued the administration to halt the programs [JURIST report], arguing [complaint, PDF] that Obama’s orders violated constitutional limits on his powers and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) [text]. Specifically, the states assert that the executive order constitutes a “substantive” or “legislative” rule that was promulgated without the requisite notice and comment process that is required by the APA. Ruling in favor of the states, US District Judge Andrew Hanen said in a 123-page memorandum opinion [text] that the Obama Administration [official website] “cannot reasonably claim that… it can establish a blanket policy of non-enforcement that also awards legal presence and benefits to otherwise removable aliens,” and that “no statute gives [the government] the power it attempts to exercise”. A bulk of the opinion, however, focused on the parents program DAPA, which, according to Hanan “does not represent mere inadequacy; it is complete abdication. … It is, in effect, a new law.” The White House said the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] would appeal the decision.

US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial and heavily politicized area of law at both the state and federal levels. 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 [JURIST 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.