A federal judge in Texas has blocked President Barack Obama’s unilateral and unpopular November plan to award work permits to four million illegal immigrants, starting this week.
The late-night injunction will scramble the Senate’s immigration stand-off, and could help conservative Republicans push confident Democrats on the defensive — if it is not quickly reversed by appeals court judges.
The lawsuit was filed by 26 states, and is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court in 2016.
“President Obama abdicated his responsibility to uphold the United States Constitution when he attempted to circumvent the laws passed by Congress via executive fiat, and Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the president’s overreach in its tracks,” reads a statement from Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“We live in a nation governed by a system of checks and balances, and the president’s attempt to bypass the will of the American people was successfully checked today,” he continued.
The 123-page judgment ruled that Obama’s November amnesty violated the Administrative Procedure Act by ignoring Congress’s laws.
The amnesty also improperly imposed burdens on the states, ruled Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of the Federal District Court in Brownsville. “The court finds that the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country. … 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.”
Hanen was nominated in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush.
The injunction is needed, Hanen declared, to stall the amnesty while the lawsuit is debated by various appeals courts.
“The court agrees … any subsequent ruling that finds DAPA unlawful after it is implemented would result in the states facing the substantially difficult — if not impossible — task of retracting benefits or licenses already provided” to beneficiaries, he wrote.
Obama’s executive order is intended to award work permits, tax rebates, Social Security cards, and a quick route to citizenship to four million of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The process would have helped the four million — and their children and spouses — gain deeper roots in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security was supposed to begin the amnesty process on Feb. 18.
The decision also blocked Obama’s announced expansion of his 2012 policy of awarding work permits to younger illegal immigrants. So far, Obama’s 2012 amnesty has allowed almost 700,000 illegals to compete against Americans for jobs in a lagging economy.
But the judge’s decision didn’t reverse Obama’s effort to largely end repatriation of illegal immigrants. The decision “does not enjoin or impair the [Department of Homeland Security] secretary’s ability to marshal his assets or deploy the resources of the DHS,” wrote the judge.
The judge’s decision could scramble the political standoff over the 2015 budget for the DHS.
A January bill passed by the House has funded the agency from Feb. 27 to October. But Democratic senators are blocking the funding bill because it also includes text that bars any spending on Obama’s unpopular amnesty.
If not reversed, the Democrats’ filibuster will prevent any spending by the agency after Feb. 27, and will force many border and customs officials to work without pay.
Democrats and their media allies, plus some liberal Republicans, say the GOP’s anti-amnesty language is causing the disagreement over the DHS budget, and the judge’s decision will help GOP leaders to argue that the budget language merely implements the court’s decision.
That decision also will increase pressure on Democrats from GOP-leaning states, plus Democrats who face the voters in 2016, to stop the filibuster and fund the DHS employees’ checks.
But Senate GOP leaders have been reluctant to fight hard against the amnesty, and the Senate Democrats may continue to block the budget in the hope that the judge’s decision will be reversed by an appeals court.
Since 2009, existing immigration laws and Obama’s decisions have added roughly 11 million foreign workers to the U.S. labor force, despite stalled wages and high unemployment.
In November 2014, foreign-born workers held one in every five U.S. jobs, up from one-in-six jobs in January 2010, according to federal data highlighted by the Center for Immigration Studies.
Each year, four million young Americans begin competing for jobs against at least 10 million unemployed Americans, two million annual new immigrants, and a resident pool of roughly two million guest workers.