A federal judge in Texas has put a temporary hold on President’s Obama’s executive actions aimed at protecting millions of illegal immigrants from being deported.
The injunction, which U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued on Feb. 16, came just two days before a new program that the president's directives established was to go into effect.
The. Justice Dept. says that the president was on solid legal ground in issuing the directives on Nov. 20 and adds that it will appeal the injunction.
Nevertheless, the Dept. of Homeland Security said on Feb. 17 it has no choice but to suspend the two programs that the injunction affects.
One would protect from deportation illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for more than five years and who are parents of legal U.S. residents. The other program expands a 2012 deportation shield for young adults who came to the U.S. as children.
Construction industry groups, who generally support comprehensive immigration reform, have been critical of Obama’s executive actions related immigration, saying that they would make it more difficult to pass a comprehensive bill in Congress.
Twenty-six states, including Texas, sued the administration shortly after Obama announced the new policies. Hanen’s injunction essentially blocks the Dept. of Homeland Security from enforcing the new programs while the lawsuit moves forward.
DHS Secretary Jeh C. Johnson said in a Feb. 17 statement that he “strongly disagreed” with Hanen’s decision but added that “in the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it.”
As a result, Johnson said, DHS will not begin accepting applications under a broadened Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Feb. 18, as originally planned.
It also will suspend its plan to accept requests for a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
However, Johnson noted that the court’s order does not affect the existing, three-year-old DACA program, which enables qualifying individuals to request an initial deportation protection or a renewal.
Congressional response to the court's action tended to divide along party lines. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement, “The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed.”
But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Obama's actions were “well within the constitutional and legal authority of his office, and the well-established precedents set by previous presidents,” including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Senate Democrats chastised Republicans for attaching a repeal of Obama’s directive to a DHS appropriations bill. The House passed the measure in January, but Senate Democrats have held up the bill.
They have pushed for a “clean” spending measure, with no provisions dealing with the Obama executive actions. DHS funding is set to expire on Feb. 27 unless Congress approves further appropriations. Obama has threatened to veto any bill that would include the House immigration provisions.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a leader on comprehensive immigration reform, said, “It’s perfectly appropriate to take this issue to court, but is completely unacceptable for Republicans to hold up funding for the Department of Homeland Security while the case wends its way through the legal system.”
He added, “This procedural ruling, in our opinion, is very unlikely to be upheld, but regardless of the outcome, Democrats remain united in our belief that funding for the Department of Homeland Security should not be used as a ransom by Republicans.”