113 Republicans back lawsuit against Obama's immigration actions

113 Republicans back lawsuit against Obama's immigration actions
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Top Republicans in Congress on Monday entered the court battle over President Obama's latest moves to ease deportations for immigrants living in the country illegally.

Texas and 25 other states have challenged the legality of the unilateral actions, arguing that the president overstepped his executive power with programs halting deportations and granting work permits to certain groups of illegal immigrants.

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The Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster Hickenlooper announces Senate bid Trump orders elimination of student loan debt for thousands of disabled veterans MORE (Ky.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteImmigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute MORE (Va.), are siding squarely with the states, arguing Obama's executive action "changes the law and sets a new policy, exceeding the executive’s constitutional authority and disrupting the delicate balance of powers."

"Congress has created a comprehensive immigration scheme — which expresses its desired policy as to classes of immigrants — but the class identified by the [Homeland Security Department] directive for categorical relief is unsupported by this scheme," the lawmakers wrote in an amicus brief filed with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. 

"Instead of setting enforcement priorities," they added, "it created a class-based program that establishes eligibility requirements that, if met, grant unlawful immigrants a renewable lawful presence in the United States and substantive benefits." 

The brief was endorsed by 113 Republicans, including Sens. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges MORE (Texas), the majority whip, and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE (Texas), a 2016 presidential hopeful. In the House, the supporters include Reps. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief Cummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump MORE (S.C.); Tom Price (Ga.); Michael McCaul (Texas), head of the Homeland Security Committee; and Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the former head of the Judiciary panel.

"[T]he President has unlawfully granted amnesty to millions who came here illegally," Cruz said Monday in a statement.

The White House was quick to fire back, noting that hundreds of voices — ranging from states to Democratic lawmakers to businesses groups — have filed their own legal briefs supporting the executive actions.

"Though these individuals and groups come from different backgrounds and perspectives, they’re all in agreement that [the] President’s actions are good for public safety and good for the economy," an administration official said in an email.

The court fight centers on a pair of executive actions taken by Obama shortly after November's midterm elections. 

One, known as the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, would halt deportations and offer work permits to the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents. The other would expand Obama's 2012 program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, to a greater number of immigrants brought to the country illegally as kids.

All told, the programs could defer deportation for more than 4 million illegal immigrants.

The states sued the administration over the programs, arguing they mark a case of executive overreach that would saddle them with exorbitant new costs.

In February, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of Brownsville, Texas, found that the states had a legitimate basis to bring their case. He also blocked the programs temporarily for what he deemed a violation of the federal law allowing public comment when new rules are established.

Hanen has yet to weigh the merits of the challenge, but his initial decision prevents the administration from moving forward with the programs, including the processing of applications.

Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats have hammered that decision, saying the executive actions are well within the president's powers and will eventually be authorized by the courts.

The administration has appealed Hanen's temporary injunction, arguing the case before the 5th Circuit last month. The court has yet to rule on the challenge.

The Republicans' amicus brief argues that the injunction should remain in place while the courts weigh the underlying case.

"President Obama’s decision to ignore the limits placed on his power and act unilaterally to rewrite our nation’s immigration laws are an affront to the Constitution," Goodlatte said Monday in a statement. 

"Such lawlessness must be stopped so that we preserve the separation of powers in the Constitution and protect individual liberty."

—Jordan Fabian contributed.

This story was updated at 6:13 p.m.