Judge blocks Obama order on immigration


A federal judge late Monday temporarily blocked President Obama’s executive action designed to shield millions of immigrants from deportation.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen wrote that 26 states that filed a lawsuit against the action would “suffer irreparable harm” without a preliminary injunction and that the constitutional question must be decided before the administration can move forward with its plans.

"Once these services are provided, there will be no effective way of putting the toothpaste back in the tube should Plaintiffs ultimately prevail on the merits,” Hanen wrote

The president’s executive actions on immigration, announced last November, would delay deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants and provide them with the opportunity to apply for work permits. The first part of those policies, the deportation delay, had been set to go into effect Wednesday. The rest are expected to begin later this year.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement released early Tuesday morning that the policies are “consistent” with law and the precedent set by presidents over the last 50 years who have “used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration law.”

“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 common-sense policies to help fix our broken immigration system,” he said. He added that the move would bring both economic and public safety benefits.

“The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, common-sense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision," Earnest said.

That appeal goes to the Fifth Circuit Court, located in New Orleans. The court is closed Tuesday for Mardi Gras, but its website says it is available for "emergency matters."

The lawsuit against the president claims he is overstepping the bounds of presidential power and violating a clause of the Constitution that authorizes the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” In the view of those states, Obama’s move legislates where he should be enforcing.

Greg Abbott, the former Texas attorney general and current governor who led the challenge against the immigration actions, praised the decision in a statement released to the Houston Chronicle.

“Judge Hanen's decision rightly stops the president's overreach in its tracks," Abbott said. "We live in a nation governed by a system of checks and balances, and the president's attempt to by-pass the will of the American people was successfully checked today."

Twelve states and the District of Columbia defended the president’s policies in a “friend of the court” brief filed in January.

An official with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) characterized the Texas judge who temporarily halted Obama's action as “out of touch.”

“This judge and his right-wing backers can't bend the law to their personal will. They stand on the wrong side of history and justice. The law is on the side of the president, who has broad authority to determine immigration enforcement policy,” SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Sáenz said in a statement.

“Immigrant families are not the enemy,” Sáenz added. “We are confident that justice will prevail as this case moves through the court system and that the relief granted by the president will take effect to the benefit of millions of families.”

Ben Goad contributed to this report, which was updated at 7:39 a.m.