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Who’s in charge here, anyway?
A coalition of 26 states led by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas has temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s November executive orders on immigration. This move, which the White House has promised to appeal, will give the states time to pursue a lawsuit aiming to permanently stop the orders.
The first of Obama’s orders, to expand a program that would protect immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally from deportation, would have taken effect last week. The other major component of the order, which would have extended deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and those who have been in the country for a number of years, was not expected to begin until mid-May.
The executive order would have affected as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. Now, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it will halt preparations for the May program until further notice.
“The genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle,” Hanen wrote, adding legalizing the presence of millions of people is a “virtually irreversible” action.
As polarizing as the discussion on immigration is, Hanen’s recent efforts also bring up another important political question: did President Obama exceed his political power with his executive order on immigration?
The coalition of 26 mostly conservative states in the South and Midwest thinks so. They argue that while Obama’s action would force increased investment in law enforcement, health care and education, the president has also violated the “Take Care Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, which they say limits the scope of presidential power.
House Speaker John Boehner said the ruling wasn’t a surprise and underscores that Obama acted beyond his authority. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed as well, adding Obama has repeatedly acknowledged “he doesn’t have the authority to take the kinds of actions he once referred to as ‘ignoring the law’ and ‘unwise and unfair.’”
In a statement early last week, the White House defended November’s executive orders, claiming they were within the president’s legal authority, and saying the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress have said federal officials can establish priorities in enforcing immigration laws.
“The law is on our side, and history is on our side,” Obama said in defense of his immigration policies.
Other immigrant advocates attacked Judge Hanen’s ruling, saying he had failed to consider the benefits to national security and the economy of having millions of unauthorized immigrants begin taking background checks and paying taxes.
The White House said the U.S. Department of Justice will file an appeal, which will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. It is very likely that this case will be reach the Supreme Court. The issue could be tied up in the court system for a few more months, at least. But a number of immigrant agencies will continue prepping immigrants in expectation that Obama’s executive orders will eventually take effect.
Question: Did President Obama exceed his presidential power by announcing an executive order on immigration?