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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Judge’s immigration ruling adds to Obama’s list of potential legal pitfalls

From The Washington Post:

President Obama’s new immigration program was supposed to begin accepting applications Wednesday from thousands of illegal immigrants hoping for relief from the threat of sudden deportation. Instead, the administration abruptly postponed the launch after a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the White House initiative.

In a decision late Monday, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled that the deferred-deportation program should not move forward while a lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging it was being decided. Though Hanen did not rule on the constitutionality of Obama’s November immigration order, he said there was sufficient merit to warrant a suspension of the new program while the case goes forward. All told, Obama’s immigration actions are projected to benefit as many as 5 million immigrants, many of whom could receive work permits if they qualified.

The effects of Hanen’s procedural ruling rippled through Washington and underscored a broader challenge to the president as he seeks to solidify the legacy of his administration.

Along with the immigration action, the fate of two of Obama’s other signature initiatives — a landmark health-care law and a series of aggressive executive actions on climate change — now rests in the hands of federal judges. It is a daunting prospect for a president in the final two years of his tenure who believes he is on the path to leaving a lasting impact on in­trac­table and politically perilous issues, despite an often bitter relationship with Congress.

Now, Obama and his Republican antagonists in Congress face the uncertainty of having their disputes mediated by the third branch of government. In an appearance in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Obama said he was confident that he would prevail, telling reporters, “The law is on our side and history is on our side.”

“This is not the first time where a lower-court judge has blocked something or attempted to block something that ultimately is going to be lawful,” he added, “and I’m confident that it is well within my authority” to execute this policy.

The immigration fight will probably head next to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit after the White House vowed to quickly appeal Hanen’s ruling. In the meantime, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday that his agency would postpone plans to begin accepting applications for the new program, which would expand a 2012 program that defers deportations of immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. (The 700,000 people who have already benefited from that program will not be affected by Hanen’s ruling.)

A second, much larger program designed to protect from deportation the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents was not scheduled to begin accepting applications until late May, and its future remains uncertain.

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