Politics

Federal Judge: Obama’s Amnesty Is Unconstitutional

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty is unconstitutional, a federal court in Pennsylvania declared Dec. 16.

The judge, Arthur Schwab, declared that “inaction by Congress does not make unconstitutional executive action constitutional… [and Obama’s] executive action goes beyond prosecutorial discretions — it is legislation.”

The president can only use his claim of prosecutorial discretion to let deputies make case-by-case decisions, not to grant work permits en-masse to 5 million illegals, the court said.

“The court holds that [Obama’s Nov. 20] Executive Action is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers and the Take Care Clause of the Constitution,” concluded the decision, which was decided in the U.S. Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The next step is unclear, because the judge was deciding how to treat an illegal immigrant arrested for drunk driving, and was not asked to rule on the constitutionality of Obama’s action.

Three other lawsuits have been filed against Obama’s amnesty. One was filed by 24 states, and the other was filed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in Arizona.

The legal disputes will be settled in the Supreme Court, which has recently handed down decisions that have both helped and hurt Obama’s claims. The Supreme Court has blocked some of Obama’s decisions for presidential overreach, but it has also centralized more power over immigration to him than it provided to prior presidents.

The Supreme Court acts slowly, but lower-court judges may block Obama’s plan until the Supreme Court decides the issue.

The 2015 budget funds Obama’s unpopular amnesty, because GOP leaders in the House and Senate did not try to bar funding.

In April, the Spanish-speaking, 42 year-old Honduran national was caught driving while drunk in Pennsylvania. At the time, he was working for his brother’s landscaping business. The illegal immigrant pled guilty, forcing the judge to apply the usual penalty, which includes the transfer of the criminal to the immigration agencies for subsequent repatriation.

But if Obama’s amnesty allows the drunk-driver to remain in the the United States, the judge would have to consider a different penalty that likely includes one year of supervised release from jail. That sentencing problem prompted the judge to examine the constitutionality of the Obama amnesty.

When quizzed by the judge, the administration tried to evade the issue by saying the amnesty isn’t relevant to the Honduran’s criminal conviction.

The judge decided to delay imposing a penalty until after another hearing in January, and directed the government to provide more information about whether the man would benefit from the amnesty. The judge didn’t push his point further, and he didn’t try to block Obama from implementing his amnesty.

The judges in the other cases have the authority and the opportunity to block Obama’s amnesty.

In making his decision against the Obama amnesty, the judge extensively cited Obama’s pre-November statements claiming he did not have the constitutional power to grant amnesty to millions of illegals.

Follow Neil on Twitter