A federal appeals court ruled against President Obama on immigration last week. The ruling deals a blow to the President’s efforts to bypass an unfriendly Congress and reform the nation’s immigration system through executive channels.
Last November, President Obama announced that he would use his executive authority to stop deporting the undocumented parents of children who came to the US at a young age or who were born on US soil. Obama coined the program the “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans.” It would have also allowed those individuals that applied for the program to work lawfully in the United States. Obama justified the move by calling it an executive action to prioritize certain deportations over others. The ability to do so has long been a part of the executive branch’s authority. However, the second part of the plan, granting work authorization to parents of US born children, faced a greater challenge. Such a move had less precedent in history and encroached on territory traditionally associated with Congress.
Several states challenges Obama’s action on the grounds that the move would place a substantial and costly burden on their agencies to implement the action. The Obama administration, on the other hands, argued that states do not have a say in policy concerning the administration of the immigration system. Furthermore, Obama argued that the states lack standing to bring suit.
The lower court in the Federal District Court in Texas ruled against Obama, writing that the move would be too costly to Texas, the lead plaintiff. Furthermore, the judge declared that the Obama administration did not follow the proper process to implement the new program. The administration swiftly filed a motion with the appellate court after the ruling to let the program proceed. Now, the appellate court has issued a ruling that affirms the District Court’s decision and continues the hold placed on the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans plan.
In a 2-1 decision, Judge Jerry E. Smith, who was nominated to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1987, wrote “Congress did not intend to make immune from judicial review an agency action that reclassifies millions of illegal aliens in a way that imposes substantial costs on states.” The 2 judge majority rejected the Obama administration’s argument that the program was a legitimate reorientation of federal priorities intended to prioritize deportation in the most efficient and effective manner. In a scathing dissent, Judge Carolyn King noted that the two judges writing for the majority, as well as the lower court Judge Andrew S. Hanen, mischaracterized the nature of the case. Furthermore, Hanen argued that the judges have carved out an entirely new theory of state standing that did not exist prior to the ruling. According to the dissent, states would now have a precedent to challenge any federal action that places any kind of administrative burden on its or their departments and agencies.
The Obama administration has vowed to appeal the ruling. According to Marielena Hincapie of the National Immigration Law Center, “the silver lining is that this is just in the nick of time for the administration to go to the Supreme Court.”