A federal judge in Texas has ordered a halt, at least temporarily, to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, siding with Texas and 25 other states that filed a lawsuit opposing the initiatives.
In an order filed on Monday, the judge, Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, prohibited the Obama administration from carrying out programs the president announced in November that would offer protection from deportation and work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants.
The first of those programs was scheduled to start receiving applications on Wednesday and the immediate impact of the ruling is that up to 270,000 undocumented immigrants nationwide who came to the United States as children will not be able to apply for deportation protection under an expansion of an existing executive program. A larger new program is scheduled to begin in May.
Judge Hanen, an outspoken critic of the administration on immigration policy, found that the states had satisfied the minimum legal requirements to bring their lawsuit. He said the Obama administration had failed to comply with basic administrative procedures for putting such a sweeping program into effect.
The administration argued that Mr. Obama was well within long-established federal authority for a president to decide how to enforce the immigration laws. But Texas and the other states said the executive measures were an egregious case of government by fiat that would impose huge new costs on their budgets.
The White House responded to the judge’s ruling in a statement early Tuesday, saying the president had acted within the law and with decades of legal precedent behind him in issuing the guidelines.
“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,” the White House statement said. “The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, common sense policies from taking effect, and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.”
In ordering the administration to suspend the programs while he makes a final decision on the case, Judge Hanen agreed with the states that the president’s policies had already been costly for them.
“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.”
Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, which is leading the states bringing the lawsuit, hailed the judge’s ruling as a “victory for the rule of law in America and a crucial first step in reining in President Obama’s lawlessness.” He said Mr. Obama’s actions were “an affront to everyone pursuing a life of freedom and opportunity in America the right way.”
Mr. Obama said he was using executive powers to focus enforcement agents on deporting serious criminals and those posing threats to national security. Three-year deportation deferrals and work permits were offered for undocumented immigrants who have not committed serious crimes, have been here at least five years and have children who are American citizens or legal residents.
As part of the package, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also established new priorities, instructing enforcement agents to concentrate on deporting the most dangerous criminals, including terrorists and gang members, as well as migrants caught crossing the border illegally.
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.”
Read more: NY Times