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States Challenge Obama's Executive Action on Immigration

Suit claims Obama did not follow proper procedure in changing federal rules

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In response to President Barack Obama's November 2014 announcement that he was taking executive action to delay the deportation of some 5 million illegal immigrants, 26 states filed a lawsuit in federal court in December 2014 in Brownsville, Texas, claiming Obama exceeded his authority, failed to follow proper protocol before changing federal rules, and that the order would place a financial burden on states, which would have to increase funding for the issuance of driver's licenses, education, law enforcement, and health care if they absorbed new immigrants.

Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of the Federal District Court for the Southern District, issued a preliminary injunction in February 2015, temporarily blocking the provisions of the executive order that would give deportation deferrals to parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents who have been in the U.S. for more than five years and expand a 2012 program to allow people under age 31 who were brought to the U.S. as children to apply for two-year deportation deferrals and work permits. Hanen's ruling allows the states to pursue a lawsuit to permanently shut down the program, which could potentially prevent the deportation of some 5 million people. The Obama administration halted implementation of the program in light of the ruling and the Justice Department filed an appeal.

The White House defended Obama's action, saying both Congress and the Supreme Court have said that federal officials have discretion in deciding who to deport and therefore Obama was authorized to issue the executive order. "Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws," said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary.

In his ruling, Judge Hanen wrote, "The genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle" if the order were implemented.

—Beth Rowen
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