In a politically charged move, a federal judge in Texas late Monday put a temporary halt to President Barack Obama's actions sparing up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation, allowing a 26-state lawsuit against the actions to proceed.
Judge Andrew S. Hansen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, an appointee of President George W. Bush, issued an order prohibiting the administration from carrying out its deportation relief programs, for which applications were to begin Wednesday. In November, the president announced that his administration would exercise prosecutorial discretion by extending deportation reprieves to immigrants who met certain requirements, had family ties in the U.S., and did not have criminal records.
Writing that "the government’s failure to secure the border has exacerbated illegal immigration into this country," Hansen ruled that the states, led by Texas, were within their rights to sue to block the programs. The multi-state coalition announced its lawsuit in December.
While Hansen's order marks a setback, some experts predict that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will suspend the judge's order.
“Federal supremacy with respect to immigration matters makes the states a kind of interloper in disputes between the president and Congress,” Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe told the New York Times. “They don’t have any right of their own.”
Indeed, presidents from both parties have historically exercised discretion in immigration enforcement. Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush both issued executive orders sparing some immigrants from deportation; both presidents failed to raise conservative hackles as President Obama's recent moves have.