Would-be immigrants told to wait, while lawmakers alter their political calculations
WASHINGTON – After President Obama announced his executive action on immigration last November, parents who crossed the United States border illegally expected to receive some governmental benefits. Democratic lawmakers pointed to polls showing that more Americans would blame Republicans if the Department of Homeland Security was denied federal funding to protect and serve those immigrants.
But a federal judge’s temporary injunction has upended the expectations and assumptions of both would-be immigrants and lawmakers.
On Monday night, Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that President Obama overstepped his authority in his executive action of November 20. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson should have issued the executive action and should have allowed a public comment period, Judge Hanen wrote.
The judge’s explanation differed from the arguments that lawmakers used to oppose or support Obama’s executive action. Republicans said Congress rather than the president should make the laws. President Obama said he was using his prosecutorial discretion.
Attorney General Eric Holder has not said if the Justice Department will appeal the judge’s temporary injunction. The executive action was expected to give permanent legal relief to 3 million to 5 million immigrants.
Parents who crossed the border illegally have been told the federal bureau that approves or rejects their claims for lawful permanent residency has been disabled temporarily. “Due to a federal court order, USCIS will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA on February 18 as originally planned,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services tells viewers on the agency’s webpage.
Republican aides said Judge Hanen’s injunction will help inoculate them from the charge that they sought to prevent DHS from enforcing the executive action for political rather than substantive reasons.
“The decision is certainly helpful and reaffirms our position,” said one GOP aide who is close to House leadership. “However, it will have to continue to work through the process. In the short term, hopefully, it will encourage the Senate Dems to allow a DHS bill to move forward in the Senate. No one wants a shutdown. We can avoid that if the Senate Dems will allow a bill to be considered. We don’t expect the Senate to take up our bill, but at least pass something so we can move to conference.”
To be sure, President Obama said the temporary injunction would not stand. "The law is on our side and history is in our side," Obama told reporters in the Oval Office.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have pointed to a CNN poll that showed 53 percent of Americans would blame Republicans if part of DHS was shut down. The poll was taken before Judge Hanen’s ruling on Monday, however.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, last Wednesday testified against three House bills that seek to protect the U.S. border with Mexico. Kicanas directed his strongest criticism of legislation that USCCB officials believe could result in the criminal prosecution of religious and church workers who help immigrants.
“Mr. Chairman, we believe these bills would not fix our immigration system,” Bishop Kicanas said at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. “Rather, they would make it less just and would undermine our nation’s moral authority, both domestically and globally.”