A federal judge has temporarily blocked President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, just one day before the first of the policies announced in November was set to go into effect. Late on Monday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled in favor of 26 states that filed a lawsuit challenging the president’s executive action, saying the administration failed to “comply with the Administrative Procedure Act.” The temporary injunction prevents the administration from enacting any of the new policies, which would protect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The federal government was set to start accepting applications for the expanded version of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on February 18, and a separate program for parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents would have opened in May. Those who are eligible for the program implemented in 2012 can still apply for deferred action.
The ruling kicks off what will likely be a long legal battle over whether Obama’s immigration action was constitutional. The lawsuit was filed in December by a Texas-led coalition of mostly conservative states, which argued that the president circumvented the law and his executive actions would harm the states by forcing them to “expend substantial resources on law enforcement, healthcare, and education” on a growing population of undocumented immigrants.
“President Obama abdicated his responsibility to uphold the United States Constitution when he attempted to circumvent the laws passed by Congress via executive fiat,” said Texas governor Greg Abbott, who was the state’s attorney general when he filed the suit. “Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the President’s overreach in its tracks.”
The administration has argued that Obama has the legal authority to decide how immigration policy is carried out, and 12 states signed on to a brief supporting the president’s position. Some legal experts say that the states have no standing to bring the case, since they can’t prove that they would be harmed by the deferred action for undocumented immigrants.
The 26 states had an unusually sympathetic ear in Judge Hanen, and the attorneys general who filed the suit were accused of “judge shopping” by filing the suit in his district. Judge Hanen was appointed by George W. Bush and has publicly criticized Obama on immigration. The New York Times notes that in a ruling last August, he said the administration’s deportation policy “endangers America” and was “an open invitation to the most dangerous criminals in society.”
The federal government is expected to appeal the ruling, which could keep the injunction from going into effect while the higher court considers the matter. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the country’s most conservative appellate courts, but Fusion reports that immigration advocates think there’s a good chance it would overturn Judge Hanen’s ruling. “It would be really remarkable for any court … to rule on the basis of the law to say that Obama doesn’t have the authority to do this,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.