Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Judge stalls Obama's executive action on immigration

A federal judge temporarily blocked President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration on 16 February  giving a coalition of 26 states time to pursue a lawsuit that aims to permanently stop the orders.

US district judge Andrew Hanen's decision puts on hold Obama's orders that could spare as many as five million people who are in the US illegally from deportation.

The federal government is expected to appeal the ruling to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The justice department had no immediate comment late Monday night.

Hanen's decision will not have any immediate effect because the first of Obama's orders to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the US illegally as children is not set to start taking effect until February 18. The other major part of Obama's order, which extends deportation protections to parents of US citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, is not expected to begin until May 19.

In a 2013 ruling in a separate case, Hanen suggested the Homeland Security Department should be arresting parents living in the US illegally who induce their children to cross the border illegally.

The coalition, led by Texas and made up of mostly conservative states in the South and Midwest, argues that Obama has violated the "Take Care Clause" of the US Constitution, which they say limits the scope of presidential power. They also say the order will force increased investment in law enforcement, health care and education.

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 the 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 votes needed to advance most legislation.

The White House has said Obama's executive order is not out of legal bounds and that the US Supreme Court and Congress have said federal officials can set priorities in enforcing immigration laws. Past US Supreme Court decisions have granted immigration officials "broad discretion" on deportation matters.

Others supporting Obama's executive order include a group of 12 mostly liberal states, including Washington state and California, as well as Washington, DC 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 law enforcement officials, including the Major Cities Chiefs Association and more than 20 police chiefs and sheriffs from across the country, also filed a motion in support, arguing the executive action will improve public safety by encouraging cooperation between police and individuals with concerns about their immigration status.

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