A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, which has drawn opposition from 26 states across the nation.
United States District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled late Monday night to block executive actions Obama took late last year to shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. In delaying the ruling, Hanen halted Obama’s executive action, ruling that the administration had failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which calls for the White House to afford a longer notification and comment period before taking action.
The White House said in a statement early Tuesday that Obama’s actions “are well within his legal authority” and that the Justice Department has indicated “that it will appeal that decision.”
“The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect,” the White House said in a statement. “The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws — which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system.”
Attorney General Eric Holder called the ruling just an “interim step” in a legal process that will take some time to play out.
“This is a decision by one federal district court judge,” Holder said Tuesday at the National Press Club, adding that the Justice Department is reviewing the ruling to determine the next step.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, whose department would be responsible for implementing the executive orders, said he “strongly” disagrees with the judge’s decision.
Johnson said his department would comply with the injunction while the appeals process plays out and his department will not launch the DACA expansion on Wednesday, as previously scheduled.
“We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do,” Johnson said.
Obama’s decision to act unilaterally in November drew the ire of Republicans who immediately slammed the President’s actions as unconstitutional and conservatives have now been waging a battle in Congress to tie funding for the Department of Homeland Security to killing Obama’s immigration orders.
The programs at issue are deferred action programs for undocumented parents of Americans and lawful residents and expansions to the program protecting illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children — known as DAPA and DACA, respectively. Neither program had gone into effect.
Hanen issued the injunction after concluding that at least Texas has standing in federal court to pursue its lawsuit as Texas “stands to suffer direct damages from the implementation of DAPA.”
He also argues that Obama’s executive action goes beyond the scope of prosecutorial discretion by “bestowing benefits,” which is more than “non-enforcement.”
“The Court seriously doubts that the Supreme Court, in holding non-enforcement decisions to be presumptively unreviewable, anticipated that such “non-enforcement” decisions would include the affirmative act of bestowing multiple, otherwise unobtainable benefits upon an individual,” Hanen wrote.
Hanen’s decision Monday came after Texas led 25 other states in a federal lawsuit to stop the executive action, and officials swiftly welcomed the judge’s decision.
“This decision is a victory for the rule of law in America and a crucial first step in reining in President Obama’s lawlessness,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.
And Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has championed efforts in Congress to undo Obama’s executive action, welcomed the news on Twitter, calling the decision a “HUGE victory for rule of law.”
Texas’s senior Sen. John Cornyn, also a Republican, said in a statement Tuesday that the ruling “reinforces” what he and other opponents have claimed, “that President Obama acted outside the law.”
“Today’s victory is an important one, but the fight to reverse the President’s unconstitutional overreach is not over,” Cornyn said. “The President must respect the rule of law and fully obey the court’s ruling.”
But the Obama administration and supporters of the immigration orders were quick to counter conservative glee. Obama and his staff have long argued that the President has the legal right to take action, saying he only acted because Congress failed to pass immigration reform.
Immigration activists were quick to characterize the court injunction as a just “a bump in the road.”
“We’ve hit a speed bump on the road to the implementation of these programs, but folks should stay the course, get their documents ready, prepare to apply, because the programs will open their doors eventually,” said Karen Tumlin, Managing Attorney of the National Immigration Law Center.
Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, insisted that the federal ruling would not stand and said Hanen, a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush,”has become known as an advocate for the harsh treatment of immigrant families.”
“Executive action protecting immigrant youth and parents is solid,” Jimenez said in a statement. “Judge Hanen’s ruling is not permanent and we are confident that it will be repealed in a higher court.”
The Texas-led coalition of states in the legal challenge are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.