Days before its first provision was supposed to begin U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen has granted a temporary stay of President Obama's executive fiat granting amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The stay has been issued based on a request by 26 states suing to permanently stop Obama's action. Judge Hanan granted the stay giving the chance to allow the lawsuit to make its way through the courts. He wrote in a memorandum accompanying his order that the lawsuit should go forward and that without a preliminary injunction the states will "suffer irreparable harm in this case."
"The genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle," he wrote, adding that he agreed with the plaintiffs' argument that legalizing the presence of millions of people is a "virtually irreversible" action.Not surprisingly the Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a statement saying that Obama's executive actions were within the bounds of legality.
The first of Obama's orders -- to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children -- was set to start taking effect Wednesday. The other major part of Obama's order, which extends deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, was not expected to begin until May 19.
"The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws-which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system," Earnest said, later adding "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."
An appeal by the administration would be handled by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Hanen, who's been on the federal court since 2002 after being nominated by President George W. Bush, regularly handles border cases but wasn't known for being outspoken on immigration until a 2013 case. In his ruling in that case, he Hanen suggested the Homeland Security Department should be arresting parents living in the U.S. illegally who induce their children to cross the border illegally.
The coalition, led by Texas and made up of mostly conservative states in the South and Midwest, argues that Obama has violated the "Take Care Clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which they say limits the scope of presidential power. They also say the order will force increased investment in law enforcement, health care and education.
"Judge Hanen's decision rightly stops the President's overreach in its tracks," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
In their request for the injunction, the coalition said it was necessary because it would be "difficult or impossible to undo the President's lawlessness after the Defendants start granting applications for deferred action."While Judge Hanen's stay (and rationale) is a positive step for limiting the President to the powers granted in the Constitution, by no means is this ruling one that will stick on appeal. Expect that as it makes its way to the Supreme Court, the stay will be on, off, and on again. This Constitutional battle has a long way to go.