With Obama’s Immigration Order Frozen, What Happens Now?

John Moore/Getty Images

John Moore/Getty Images

Republicans across the U.S. are celebrating a temporary victory following a ruling from a Texas federal judge this week. Ever since President Barack Obama put forth an executive action for the deferred deportation of specific members of the immigrant population living in the U.S. without documentation — in particular those known as DREAMERS — controversy has been heavy in Washington. Republicans argue that the order is a major overstep of power, calling it amnesty for illegal immigration, and insisting that it goes beyond the role of the executive.

The Obama administration has been steadfast in claiming the legality of the decision, having consulted with legal advisers and authorities, and insists that the action was necessary given Congress’s inaction on immigration. However this didn’t stop a lawsuit filed against Obama by 26 states. “This lawsuit is not about immigration. It is about the rule of law, presidential power, and the structural limits of the U.S. Constitution,” reads the declaration of complaint and injury, filed originally by Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Maine, North Carolina, and Idaho. Now, the first step toward putting at the very least a delay on the president’s action has been taken.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled Monday that Obama’s executive order had indeed been an over-extension of power, arguing that in offering certain benefits only given to citizens, the president had gone beyond simply delaying or putting off deportation.

The DHS was not given any ‘discretion by law’ to give 4.3 million removable aliens what the DHS itself labels as ‘legal presence. In fact, the law mandates that these illegally-present individuals be removed. The DHS has adopted a new rule that substantially changes both the status and employability of millions. These changes go beyond mere enforcement or even non-enforcement of this nation’s immigration scheme,” said Hanen in his injunction order — according to the Washington Times.

In fact, the issue for Hanen does seem to be one of presidential power under the constitution, rather than immigration — at least judging by his own words. If not for the ruling, Obama’s order would have begun to go into effect this week for some 5 million people, with applications for deferred action being taken starting Tuesday. But Hanen has predicted in his statement that those who will no longer be able to apply are unlikely to be deported at all during Obama’s presidency regardless. Says Hanen, Obama’s “priorities” will prevent that, even if they aren’t given the advantages his action would have allowed. At the same time, he argues that an injunction is necessary while appeals go forward to prevent states from “suffer[ing] irreparable harm in this case” because application acceptance would be “virtually irreversible.”

This is a mild irony in that it means members of this population will not be allowed to become a legal part of the workforce, meaning they won’t pay taxes, but may still remain regardless — at least by Hanen’s guess. It would also make 2016 that much more concerning, and put immigrants living in the U.S. illegally hoping to remain with their families in a much more precarious and nerve wracking situation. Hanen’s state, Texas, is an interesting place for the primary hearing to take place given its special position on immigration. Alongside California, Texas has one of the highest populations of immigrants without documentation in America, making the issue that much more relevant there than in other states that have filed suit. It is also one of the more conservative states in the U.S., with Republican sentiment considerably more red in Texas than elsewhere.

Of course, Judge Hanen’s ruling will be appealed, and the fight over Obama’s action is hardly over. The White House Office of the Press Secretary published a release Tuesday saying in no uncertain terms that the decision was inappropriate and had no legal foot to stand on.

The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority.Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe,” read the statement. “The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.”

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