By Joe Guzzardi
March 13, 2015
President Obama’s unilateral amnesty, which he expected would proceed without congressional approval, has run into vigorous judicial challenges. The roadblocks may permanently derail plans to grant about five million aliens work permits, social security numbers, and welfare benefits.
First, on February 16 Texas federal court Judge Andrew Hanen issued a temporary injunction that halted a program that the administration announced would begin two days later. Effective on February 18, recipients of the 2012 deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), unconstitutional and repeatedly rejected by Congress, would have their work permits and deportation stays extended from the original two- year period to three years. A newly-created amnesty, deferred action for parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents (DAPA) would be effective six months after Obama’s original November 20 executive action.
On November 21, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services published a notice setting the dates in stone: the agency would begin accepting DACA applications on February 18 and DAPA’s “in mid-to-late May 2015.” Accordingly, when Judge Hanen issued his February 16 decision, he noted the dates, and ordered that “any and all aspects or phases” of DACA and DAPA must be put on hold.
The Justice Department repeatedly insisted to Judge Hanen that no DACA or DAPA work permits or other benefits would be extended on behalf of illegal immigrants during the court’s temporary injunction. But the administration quickly tried to cover up undisclosed information which it had excluded despite Judge Hanen’s direct questioning. In a Defendants Advisory, the DOJ admitted in what it claimed represented an “abundance of caution” that 100,000 DACA protections had been extended immediately after Obama’s November proclamation. The conclusion: in an effort to get as many illegal immigrants approved as quickly as possible in anticipation of legal challenges, the DOJ had deceived Judge Hanen.
The DOJ’s dishonesty may pose an insurmountable hurdle for the administration. DOJ lawyers have urged the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Court to set aside Judge Hanen’s February decision. Earlier, Judge Hanen rejected a similar DOJ request for a stay pending the outcome of his investigation into whether administration officials purposely lied to him. An irate Judge Hanen ordered government lawyers to explain themselves in his court on March 19th.
From this point on, things could get explosive. When he learned that the DOJ withheld critical information, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, the lead plaintiff in the 26-state coalition against Obama’s amnesty, immediately called for contempt of court charges. At least one legal analyst thinks that when the March 19th hearing ends, some DOJ lawyers could be removed from court in handcuffs for “explicitly lying.”
The legal fight over Obama’s unilateral amnesty is still in its early stages. Despite an amicus brief filed by 14 states and the District of Columbia in support of lifting Judge Hanen’s hold, the appeals court has indicated it won’t intervene until the lower court has made its final ruling. The same applies for a possible Supreme Court hearing: nothing will be done until the lower courts have ruled with finality, a series of legal steps that could last until January 2017. By then, Obama would be out of office and his executive actions could be null and void, assuming the new administration reverses them.
Since his 2009 inauguration, Obama has systematically dismantled immigration law. If the courts rule against him, he may have to abandon his amnesty programs, but could and likely would defiantly pursue other lawless immigration actions.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]