Federal judge refuses administration request to lift injunction on immigration orders
A Texas federal judge has denied a request by Obama's justice department to lift his injunction against implementing the president's executive orders on immigration.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen refused to set aside his Feb. 16 decision granting a preliminary injunction requested by 26 states. The U.S. government wants the injunction lifted -- allowing Obama's action to proceed -- while it appeals Hanen's ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans.
In his order Tuesday denying the government's request, Hanen said the government hasn't "shown any credible reason for why this Directive necessitates immediate implementation."
There was no immediate comment from the White House.
The Justice Department has already asked the 5th Circuit to lift the injunction. The appeals court was scheduled to hear arguments on whether the injunction should be lifted on April 17.
The coalition of states has filed a lawsuit to overturn Obama's executive actions, which would prevent as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally from being deported. The states, led by Texas, argue that the action is unconstitutional and would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education. The injunction is intended to stall Obama's actions while the lawsuit progresses through the courts.
Justice Department attorneys argue that keeping the temporary hold harms "the interests of the public and of third parties who will be deprived of significant law enforcement and humanitarian benefits of prompt implementation" of the president's immigration action.
Obama announced the executive orders in November, saying a lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own.
Before ruling on the injunction, Hanen said he first wanted to hear from federal prosecutors about allegations that the U.S. government had misled him about the implementation of part of the immigration plan.
In fact, more than 100,000 illegals had been given three-year waivers on deportation and work permits after the judge issued the injunction. What did adminitration lawyers have to say about that?
DOJ attorneys insisted the moves were made under 2012 guidelines that weren't blocked by the injunction. The DOJ apologized for any confusion, but Hanen seemed unconvinced during a hearing last month and threatened to sanction the attorneys.
He wrote Tuesday that while the federal government had been "misleading" on the subject, he would not immediately apply sanctions against the government, saying to do so would not be "in the interests of justice or in the best interest of this country" because the issue was of national importance and the outcome will affect millions of people.
"The parties' arguments should be decided on their relative merits according to the law, not clouded by outside allegations that may or may not bear on the ultimate issues in this lawsuit," Hanen wrote.
A sensible move by the judge to prevent confusion over an already complicated issue. The judge issued his injunction not because the administration violated the Constitution, but because the administration failed to follow administrative law by not giving the required time to comment on the rules before implementing them.
The issue of constitutionality is still alive, but whether the 5th Circuit sees it that way is another question. The executive is given broad latitutde in implementing the law, and despite the huge numbers involved, the principle is fairly solid. That's why many observers feel that attacking the orders from the standpoint of the administration not following the rules on a comment period for the orders has a better chance of success.
The 5th Circuit should rule on the matter later this month.