President Barack Obama has decided to fight the injunction a federal judge from Texas placed on the president’s immigration executive actions. The White House announced on Friday afternoon, Feb. 20, 2015 that lawyers from the Justice Department intend to file court documents seeking to lift the injunction the latest on Monday, Feb. 23. Additionally, the Justice Department will also file an appeal.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced the administration’s plans to fight the injunction, saying, “The Department of Justice has made a decision to file a stay in this case. I would anticipate that they will file documents at the district court level on Monday at the latest. And so when they have filed those documents, they and we will be in a position to talk a little bit more about our legal strategy.” Continuing Earnest announced the appeal, “We will seek that appeal because we believe when you evaluate the legal merits of the arguments, that there is a solid legal foundation for the president to take the steps he announced last year to help reform our immigration system.”
The press secretary also backed up the president’s authority to initiate those executive actions, claiming, “There is a solid legal foundation for the president to take the steps that he announced late last year to reform our broken immigration system.” Earnest explained that President Obama executive actions are “consistent with the way that previous presidents over the course of several decades have used their executive authority. And that is why, you know, we are going to continue to pursue this case in the legal system.”
President Obama and his administration were against the injunction from the start, they always vowed to appeal, but it was uncertain whether they would pursue a stay on the injunction. The president expressed his disagreement with the ruling when he spoke to the press Tuesday, Feb. 18 declaring, “I think the law is on our side and history is on our side. I disagree with the Texas judge’s ruling and the Justice Department will appeal. This is not the first time where a lower court judge has blocked something or attempted to block something that ultimately was shown to be lawful. I’m confident that it is well within my authority and the tradition of the executive branch’s prosecutorial discretion to execute this policy.”
Late Monday evening, Feb. 16, 2015 U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, granted the requests of 26 states to block the president’s immigration executive actions from November with a temporary injunction. Judge Hanen cited that the White House failed “to comply with a law detailing how the federal government must establish regulations.” In his ruling Hanen also cited “The court finds that the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country. Further, the record supports the finding that this lack of enforcement, combined with the country’s high rate of illegal immigration, significantly drains the states’ resources.”
President Obama bypassed Congress, who had failed to find a consensus on a comprehensive immigration reform package according to Obama’s specification. Not content with the GOP’s proposed path to immigration reform, Obama issued executive actions in November, which did what Congress should have been allowed to do, and changed the U.S. immigration laws as a result. Republicans have claimed the president overreached in his constitutional powers with those orders and they amounted to executive amnesty, immigrants group however, praised Obama’s moves.
The executive actions would spare nearly 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. The first part would have begun on Wednesday, Feb. 18 and expanded on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program” (DACA), relating to immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children; only 270,000 will be affected. The injunction has to do with the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA), which protects the parents of U.S. citizens from deportations and allows them to defer deportation and legally work in the country; this part commences in May, and represents the bulk, 4.7 million illegal immigrants.
Although the injunction was only for DAPA program, the White House decided indefinitely to put a hold on all the new immigration programs. The government will not be accepting any applications for the expanded DACA or DAPA programs. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement on Tuesday after the ruling was announced, “The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction; in the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it. Accordingly, the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned. Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA.”
The Justice Department’s motion for a stay to lift the injunction will probably not be granted, because it has to first go through Judge Hanen. Their next move would be to appeal to 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans, but the chances are not that better with that court because of its conservative tendencies.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.