A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against an Obama administration program delaying deportations of certain illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
The unanimous opinion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals comes as a separate case on whether President Obama's expanded immigration executive actions can proceed.
In the decision on Tuesday, the court ruled plaintiffs, the state of Mississippi and agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not provide enough evidence to prove they were harmed by the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows qualifying illegal immigrants to apply for work permits.
"We conclude that neither the agents nor the state of Mississippi has demonstrated the concrete and particularized injury required to give them standing to maintain this suit," the court's opinion states.
Mississippi had argued that immigrants granted work permits through DACA would have raised costs for the state associated with schools, healthcare programs and law enforcement. Mississippi cited a 2006 study estimating the net cost of illegal immigration at $25 million per year.
But the district court that originally rejected the case determined that the study didn't provide sufficient evidence because it was conducted six years before DACA began. The appeals court agreed that Mississippi's allegation based on that study was "purely speculative."
The appeals court ruling also dismissed the ICE agents' argument that they would receive retribution if they detained an illegal immigrant eligible for DACA. It pointed to directives from the Department of Homeland Security that give agents discretion over how to handle illegal immigrants.
"The fact that the directives give this degree of discretion to the agent to deal with each alien on a case by case basis makes it highly unlikely that the agency would impose an employment sanction against an employee who exercises his discretion to detain an illegal alien," the court's opinion states.
A Texas district court judge issued a preliminary injunction in February that froze Obama's November executive actions to expand DACA, as well as a separate program allowing the parents of legal U.S. citizens to remain in the country.
The Texas judge, Andrew Hanen, issued the order at the urging of 26 states that argued Obama's unilateral actions were unconstitutional.
A separate panel of judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to hold arguments on the administration's appeal of the February ruling.