US appeals court upholds injunction against Obama immigration plan

Federal panel blocks actions to legalize situation of five million undocumented immigrants

President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Tuesday.Dennis Brack (EFE)

A United States federal appeals court has decided to maintain the hold on the White House’s plan for immigration reform, leaving millions in legal limbo. On Tuesday, a panel of judges ruled in favor of upholding a temporary injunction against President Barack Obama’s executive actions to grant five million undocumented immigrants work permits and protection from deportation. The White House announced its plan in November but a judge put a block on its implementation in February.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, sided with the 26 states – 24 Republican and 2 Democratic – that filed a lawsuit against the Democratic president’s executive actions taken after his party suffered serious losses in November’s legislative elections and his proposal for comprehensive immigration reform failed to pass in Congress.

The states argued that Obama had “overstepped” his powers as president

Two of the three judges voted to maintain the injunction on the president’s actions, thus upholding the Texas federal judge’s ruling from February. They argued that the states had the right to file their lawsuit and that the Obama administration had not shown that a hold would harm the implementation of its immigration plan.

The states based their lawsuit on the argument that Obama had “overstepped” his powers as president by approving immigration measures by executive order without submitting them to a congressional vote, thus failing in his duty to uphold the law.

After the Texas court’s ruling, the federal government appealed the decision and asked the appeals court to lift the injunction so it could implement its immigration measures while it continued to fight the lawsuit presented by the 26 states. “Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay and the request to narrow the scope of the injunction,” the judges said in their ruling.

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After the decision was announced, the White House accused the two judges of having chosen to “misinterpret the facts and the laws” and said its measures fell within the “limits” of presidential power. According to Reuters, the Justice Department is now reviewing the text and evaluating what the next appropriate steps might be.

After this judicial blow, the Obama administration could now appeal to the court a second time. If the motion is denied once again, the administration may then submit its claim to the Supreme Court. Judicial battles of this kind are no novelty for the Obama administration. Healthcare reform, another of the president’s star projects, is also being deliberated by judges.

Meanwhile, the decision handed down on Tuesday has put a definitive hold on the White House’s immigration plan. With the first series of measures – which were slated to come into force in February – the government was expected to accept requests under the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) plan, which benefits undocumented youths. And, in May, the Obama administration had planned to offer a new program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), for parents of US citizens or legal permanent residents.

Translation: Dyane Jean François

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