Texas hold’em: Federal court reaffirms state block on Obama amnesty plan

Illegal migrants from Guatemala, deported from the US, arrive at an air force base in Guatemala City (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez)
A federal appeals court has refused to lift a Texas judge’s hold on President Barack Obama’s executive orders intended to legalize up to 5 million immigrants to the US, siding with 26 states that have challenged the controversial measures.

In a majority decision announced Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled against lifting the hold on two immigration programs, imposed in February by District Judge Andrew Hanen in South Texas. The White House had sought an emergency injunction to lift the hold, with President Obama saying that law and history were on his side.

Texas just won the Executive Amnesty case at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals,” tweeted Governor Greg Abbott, adding, “The constitution wins.”

In a 68-page ruling issued Tuesday afternoon, Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod said the Justice Department had not met the legal standards required to block Judge Hannen’s hold.

“Although the Secretary [of Homeland Security] is given discretion to make immigration decisions based on humanitarian concerns, that discretion is authorized for particular family members and forms of relief,” Smith wrote in the majority opinion.

Congress has developed an intricate process for unlawfully present aliens to reside lawfully … in the United States on account of their child’s citizenship,” Smith wrote, so the judges would expect to find an “explicit delegation of authority” to implement programs that would legalize them, “but no such provision exists.”

Representing the 26 states seeking to block the White House’s measures, Texas solicitor general Scott Keller argued that the President bypassed Congress to impose a policy on the states. In doing so, he inflicted “injury” through requiring the states to either change their laws, or incur millions of dollars in expenses to issue drivers’ licenses and other documents to the eligible immigrants.

Judge Stephen Higginson, appointed by President Obama, was the only one to agree with government attorney Benjamin Mizer that states lacked standing to challenge the federal programs. Elrod and Smith were appointed by Republican presidents.

READ MORE: White House will seek emergency order to stay Texas immigration ruling

Texas and 25 other states are seeking to block the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which would have allowed illegal immigrants born outside the US but raised in the country to apply for employment authorization and protection from deportation.

The DACA expansion was supposed to take effect on February 18, before being blocked by Judge Hanen. DAPA, the program to protect from deportation illegal immigrants whose children are US citizens or permanent residents, was scheduled to begin on May 19.

The states seeking to block both programs are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.