Republicans around the country praised an overnight decision by a federal judge to block President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, calling it a return to the rule of law that should help eliminate Obama’s plan to give up to 5 million illegal immigrants legal protection.
Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas halted Obama’s action in a three-page ruling that said no aspect of Obama’s plan can move forward until “a final resolution of the merits of this case.” The case he referred to is an ongoing lawsuit against Obama’s action brought by 26 states, led by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
Hanen’s injunction prevents federal officials from implementing both major parts of Obama’s action. That is an expansion of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA.
New DACA applications were expected to be taken by the Department of Homeland Security as early as this week, but that process has stopped for now in light of Hanen’s injunction.
The news came at a perfect time for congressional Republicans who are looking to defund Obama’s action in a DHS spending bill. Democrats have refused to let the bill move in the Senate, but the court’s decision will likely embolden Republicans to keep pressing their point.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it’s “no surprise” that at least one court agreed that Obama’s actions might be illegal, since Obama himself had said before he didn’t have the authority to set immigration policy by himself. Boehner also said the ruling should help convince Democrats who have been critical of Obama’s action to let the DHS bill move in the Senate.
— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) February 17, 2015
Texas’ two Senate Republicans said the court ruling vindicates Republicans and the arguments they’ve been making against Obama’s action for months now.
“Today’s ruling reinforces what I and many others have been saying for a long time: that President Obama acted outside the law when he went around Congress to unilaterally change our nation’s immigration laws,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “Today’s victory is an important one, but the fight to reverse the president’s unconstitutional overreach is not over. The president must respect the rule of law and fully obey the court’s ruling.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called it a “huge victory for rule of law.”
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 17, 2015
Cruz’s spokeswoman, Amanda Carpenter, agreed with Boehner that the ruling might now make it easier for the Senate to press ahead with a DHS spending bill that defunds Obama’s action.
Senate Democrats are going to have a much harder time killing DHS funding to preserve amnesty now that it's blocked in 26 states.
— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) February 17, 2015
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said Obama’s action is a “clear and present danger” to the Constitution, and said the injunction will let the states’ lawsuit move ahead.
“By acting unilaterally to rewrite our nation’s immigration laws, President Obama has disregarded the will of the American people and violated the Constitution,” he said. “We cannot allow one man to nullify the law of the land with either a stroke of his pen or a phone call.”
The White House responded by saying it would quickly appeal the decision. “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,” the White House said.
While it’s unclear how quickly that can happen, supporters of Obama’s action dismissed the ruling as one that would quickly be overturned, and one that was written by a lone conservative judge whose views are not shared by other judges.
“This ruling — issued by a lone, out-of-touch judge, singularly sought out by extremist Republican governors and attorney generals — is a temporary disappointment, but in no way a permanent setback,” said Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union.
But even if the ruling can be overturned, it buys Republicans more time to figure out how to deal with Obama’s action through the legislative process. Congress returns next week, and will have just five days to figure out how to fund DHS once the money runs out on Feb. 27.
The ruling also has the potential force the Obama administration to pare back its executive action, if a final court decision finds that some part of the immigration action violates the law.
Judge Hanen said he decided on an injunction in order to decide the outstanding issues in the case, which he said seemed to have merit. Hanen said the Obama administration failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which outlines the way federal agencies can issue regulations.