Obama Immigration Plan Stymied as States Win Again on Appeal

10 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Appeals court deals blow to Obama.

President Barack Obama’s plan to shield more than 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation before he leaves office was dealt another blow by an appeals court’s refusal to let the program begin while 26 states fight to derail it.

Washington: A federal appeals court said on Monday that President Barack Obama could not move forward with his plans to overhaul immigration rules by providing up to five million people with work permits and protection from deportation. A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled 2-1 against an appeal by the Obama administration, saying that a lawsuit brought by 26 states to block Obama’s actions was likely to succeed at trial. The ruling is the latest blow to the president’s efforts to circumvent congressional inaction on immigration by using the power of his office to reshape the way the nation’s immigration laws are enforced. The judge in Brownsville, Texas, ruled that the White House had skipped required federal policy making steps and halted the program in February, hours before it was to begin taking applications. Administration officials are hoping that the Supreme Court will overturn the lower-court rulings and let the president carry out his immigration programme.

The administration argued that the executive branch was within its rights in deciding to defer deportation of selected groups of immigrants, including children who were brought to the US illegally. Newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan has said House Republicans won’t be offering legislation on immigration reform, calling Obama an unreliable partner because he had attempted to bypass Congress with executive orders.

Appeals over the injunction could take months and, depending on how the case unfolds, it could go back to the Texas federal court for more proceedings. Monday’s appeals court ruling “has pretty effectively closed down any meaningful chance of immigration reform before Obama leaves office,” Richard Murray, a pollster and political science professor at the University of Houston, said in a phone interview. Before the effort began, it was blocked in February by a US district court judge in Texas, who ruled that allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain lawfully in the United States would prove costly to the state of Texas, the lead plaintiff in the case. If the high court’s four Democratic appointees vote to take the case, the decision would come in June, “just as the political parties are settling in on their candidates,” Murray said. “Immigration has already become a huge issue; I think it will be a wedge issue in the presidential campaign.” Obama’s initiative targets undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years, can pass a criminal background check, and have a child who is an American citizen. The 70-page majority opinion by Judge Jerry Smith, joined by Jennifer Walker Elrod, rejected administration arguments that the district judge abused his discretion with a nationwide order and that the states lacked standing to challenge Obama’s executive orders.

Smith found that Texas had established that it was in a strong legal position to bring the lawsuit because it would be harmed by new costs for issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants. They acknowledged an argument that an adverse ruling would discourage potential beneficiaries of the plan from cooperating with law enforcement authorities or paying taxes. In the 2-to-1 decision, the majority ruled the states could sue because they face “a concrete threatened injury in the form of millions of dollars of losses” if they’re forced to provide services, such as drivers’ licenses, to undocumented immigrants.

While Obama’s program itself doesn’t convey federal benefits, the work permits it provides could lead to Social Security, Medicaid and tax credits, which may be beyond the president’s power to grant, the court’s majority ruled. Circuit Judge Carolyn King, nominated by Democratic President Jimmy Carter and in contrast to the panel’s two Republican appointees, agreed with the administration that immigration officials should focus their limited resources on removing criminals rather than on deporting law-abiding immigrants and breaking up families.

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