In a 123-page decision issued late Monday, federal judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled that President Obama overstepped his authority in his controversial executive order on immigration, arguing that the Department of Homeland Security does not have the “discretion by law” to grant 4.3 million illegal aliens “legal presence” and “benefits and privileges.” While the White House said it will appeal Hanen’s ruling, the decision’s timing might prove important in the current funding battle in Congress.
“The DHS was not given any ‘discretion by law’ to give 4.3 million removable aliens what the DHS itself labels as ‘legal presence,’” wrote Judge Hanen. “In fact, the law mandates that these illegally-present individuals be removed. The DHS has adopted a new rule that substantially changes both the status and employability of millions. These changes go beyond mere enforcement or even non-enforcement of this nation’s immigration scheme.”
While the president does have the authority to determine the priorities for deportation, Hanen argued, setting up a program that provides them benefits and alters their legal status is an overreach. Hanen faulted the administration for being “disingenuous” in its presentation of the action and said the president condemned his own actions by admitting that he had, in fact, acted to “change the law” via executive order.
Hanen also noted that his halt on the president’s executive action does not mean that 4.3 illegal immigrants would be suddenly deported; instead, he expects the administration will maintain its “status quo”: doing little about immigrants here legally:
The DHS may continue to prosecute or not prosecute these illegally-present individuals, as current laws dictate. This has been the status quote for at least the last five years and there is little-to-no basis to conclude that harm will fall upon the defendents if it is temporarily prohibited from carrying out the […] program.
In a press conference early Tuesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the judge had ruled “wrongly” and defended the president’s “lawful, commonsense” policies:
“Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe,” Earnest told reporters. “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 the decision.”
The Washington Times points out that the ruling will likely play a “major part” in the current DHS funding debate in Congress:
In the immediate sense, the ruling will become a major part of the debate over homeland security funding that has roiled Capitol Hill, with Republicans insisting Mr. Obama’s actions were unconstitutional and should be halted through Congress’s spending power, and Democrats backing their president by filibustering to block funding for the Homeland Security Department altogether.