Court Ruling Further Delays Obama’s Executive Actions

By Reuben S. Seguritan

June 03, 2015

President Obama’s executive actions on immigration face yet another setback as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit refused to grant the government’s motion for an “emergency stay” of the court order which temporarily placed on hold the President’s deferred action program announced on November 20, 2014.

According to the Department of Justice, it will not bring the emergency request to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, they will be focusing on their appeal of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision. The appeal will also be heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on July 10.

Judge Hanen issued the temporary injunction against the President’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on February 20, 2015 which effectively stopped the programs until the case is resolved. He has yet to rule on the merits of the case. Texas leads 25 other states in the lawsuit against President Obama’s executive actions.

The DAPA program extends eligibility for deferred action to certain parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The expanded DACA program eliminated the age cap of 31 years under the original program and moved the eligibility cut-off date for continuous residence in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010.

In their motion for an “emergency stay”, the government argued that the President’s executive actions are well-within his constitutional authority and that the states had no standing to sue because enforcement of immigration laws is the sole power of the federal government.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, denied the government’s emergency request to lift Judge Hanen’s injunction.

Judge Smith who wrote the decision stated that the injunction should not be lifted because the states were able to establish that President Obama’s programs would cause them to suffer harm. Requiring states to issue driver’s licenses to beneficiaries of the program would cause them to incur financial burden.

He also wrote that President Obama’s executive actions “is the affirmative act of conferring ‘lawful presence’ on a class of unlawfully present aliens.”

Judge Jerry Smith was joined by Judge Jennifer Elrod. Both were appointed by Republican presidents.

Judge Stephen Higginson dissented, indicating the “political nature of this dispute”. He also stated that enforcement priorities “must be decided, presently is being decided, and always has been decided, by the federal political branches.” It is not yet known whether the same judges will hear the federal government’s appeal scheduled to be heard this July.

The decision comes as a big disappointment to immigrant rights advocates as some five million immigrants expecting to benefit from the program will now have to wait while the government appeals Judge Hanen’s decision.

This latest decision may have delayed further the implementation of President Obama’s programs, however, this has not doused the immigrant community’s hope.

As Erika Andiola, Co-director of the Dream Coalition pointed out, “Republicans strategically chose this conservative judge [Hanen] whom they knew would delay implementation and try to intimidate our community. We, however, were the ones who pressured the president, knowing it is a constitutional move, and we continue to be confident that we will win at the end.”