Here Come The Nativists

A Bush-appointed judge, hand-picked by anti-immigrant activists, rules against President Obama’s immigration actions.

Bush-Appointed Judge, Hand-Picked By Anti-Immigrant Activists, Rules Against President Obama’s Immigration Actions

Late last night, Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas temporarily blocked the Department of Homeland Security from implementing President Obama’s deferred action immigration directives. The ruling did not come as a surprise to most observers; Hanen has a history of extremist anti-immigrant decisions.

The bad news is that the judge’s deeply flawed ruling will delay implementation of common-sense measures designed to focus limited enforcement resources on felons, not families (bear in mind this does not affect the existing DACA). The good news, however, is that the decision is only a temporary setback; the judicial process will move beyond Judge Hanen to higher courts. And with extensive jurisprudence pointing toward the fact that the President has the legal authority to act, we are confident that his directives will be deemed constitutional and will be fully implemented.

Here are three key points to know and remember in this case:

1. This is a partisan political attack disguised as a lawsuit. In December, governors and attorneys general from 26 states sued the government to block the DHS directives from going in to effect. Every single governor that signed onto the lawsuit, and all but one of the attorneys general, were Republicans.

What’s more, it is no accident that Judge Haren was the judge selected to rule on the lawsuit. The plaintiffs, led by now-Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX), shopped around for a judge they knew to be sympathetic to their anti-immigrant cause.

2. Judge Hanen’s ruling is not the final decision in the case. The Department of Justice will immediately appeal the judge’s decision and apply for a stay of the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. At this point, that can go in two possible directions.

  • The 5th Circuit grants the requested stay, and implementation of the directives will continue while the court considers the merits of the plaintiffs’ case.
  • The 5th Circuit denies the stay request and the temporary injunction remains in effect, further delaying the implementation of the DACA expansion and DAPA programs.

In either situation, a decision on the requested stay should take place within a couple of weeks, while the ruling on the underlying legality of the directives will likely take several months. In the meantime, immigrants who would have been eligible to request deferred action under these directives will not be agency enforcement priorities and should not be removed.

3. We are confident that President Obama’s directives are legal, and that they will proceed. Lawsuits against similar executive action have failed in the past, including a 2012 Mississippi challenge of the DACA program, and an effort by an anti-immigrant Sheriff challenging executive action that was struck down in court in December of last year. More than 130 legal scholars from across the political spectrum wrote a letter to the president urging him to take executive action, and laying out the broad legal authority for taking executive action on immigration. These scholars reaffirmed the legality of the DHS directives after they were announced in late-November.

BOTTOM LINE: Last night’s anti-immigrant ruling by an anti-immigrant federal judge in southern Texas is temporary and an aberration. This judge’s ruling is just another piece of a cynical, partisan strategy to break families apart and oppose the President’s policies at all costs. Legal precedent from Supreme Court rulings and similar lawsuits in the past — not to mention the views of more than one hundred legal experts — demonstrates that ultimately, President Obama’s immigration action and the directives from the Department of Homeland Security will be upheld as constitutional.

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