Appeals court deals Obama immigration executive orders a huge blow

Using strong legal language, an appeals court upheld a lower court ruling preventing the administration from implementing the president's executive orders that would have allowed the government to hand out work permits to millions of illegal aliens.

The president's executive orders would have granted at least 5 million illegals and their families three-year green cards and allowed them to be eligible for government health and other benefits.  A federal judge in Texas issued an injunction against the orders, which has now been upheld by the appeals court.

USA Today:

In his ruling Monday night, Circuit Court Judge Jerry Smith said Obama's program "would allow illegal aliens to receive the benefits of lawful presence solely on account of their children's immigration status, without complying with any of the requirements ... that Congress has deliberately imposed." He was joined by Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod.

Their ruling said the program "would dramatically increase the number of aliens eligible for work authorization, thereby undermining Congress's stated goal of closely guarding access to work authorization and preserving jobs for those lawfully in the country."

Judge Carolyn Dineen King dissented, arguing that the deferred action program was an "exercise of prosecutorial discretion" beyond the reach of federal court judges. She also criticized her court for stalling well beyond its normal 60-day period of review.

"I have a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made," she said. "That mistake has been exacerbated by the extended delay that has occurred in deciding this 'expedited' appeal. There is no justification for that delay."

The administration had argued that it was merely formalizing an existing policy of targeting the most dangerous undocumented immigrants and making millions of others a lower priority.

"The policies are a quintessential exercise of prosecutorial discretion, an executive function that is not subject to judicial review," it argued in court papers. "And they are an exercise of authority that Congress expressly granted to the (homeland security) secretary to establish policies for enforcement of the immigration laws, a uniquely federal domain into which states may not intrude."

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton summed up the victory:

Texas is the lead plaintiff in the case. Its attorney general, Ken Paxton, said that through today’s decision, the Fifth Circuit has “asserted that the separation of powers remains the law of the land, and the president must follow the rule of law, just like everybody else.” Paxton added that “throughout this process, the Obama Administration has aggressively disregarded the constitutional limits on executive power, and Texas, leading a charge of 26 states, has secured an important victory to put a halt to the president’s lawlessness.”

If this decision hasn't "put a halt" to the president's lawlessness, it's certainly thrown a monkey wrench into the works.  The case faces an uncertain future in the Supreme Court, if the administration chooses to appeal. 

The language used by Judge Jerry Smith (a Reagan appointee) in his ruling suggests a constitutional basis for upholding the injunction.  It's hard to argue with his logic, given his strong dissent from the Obama administration's legal justification for issuing the orders.  Smith has given a road map to conservatives on the Supreme Court to follow when writing their opinion, which may be strong enough to pick up Justice Kennedy's support and tip the ruling their way.