Federal judge rules Obama amnesty order unconstitutional power grab
Ruling doesn’t immediately overturn policy
A federal judge Tuesday ruled parts of President Obama’s deportation amnesty to be unconstitutional, with a scathing memo dismantling the White House’s legal reasoning and arguing that Mr. Obama tried to steal Congress’ lawmaking powers.
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The ruling doesn’t invalidate the policy immediately because it was part of a case over a single illegal immigrant’s deportation, but it could serve as a road map for other federal judges who are considering direct challenges to the president’s policy.
Judge Arthur J. Schwab, sitting in the Western District of Pennsylvania, said Mr. Obama has some discretion in how to enforce laws, but by setting out a comprehensive system to grant tentative legal status to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, the president has strayed into trying to write the laws, which is a power reserved for Congress.
“President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore is unconstitutional,” Judge Schwab wrote.
Immigrant rights advocates said the ruling was a shocking overstep of the court’s authority. Indeed, the Obama administration has argued in federal court in Washington that judges have no power to review the president’s decision-making.
Judge Schwab issued the ruling the same day the Senate voted to confirm Mr. Obama’s pick to head U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that the president instructed to stand down on most deportations.
Sarah R. Saldana was confirmed on a near party-line vote, overcoming objections from Senate Republicans who said approval of the nomination amounted to a show of support for the president.
Mr. Obama’s policy would allow up to 5 million illegal immigrants to apply for “deferred action,” a proactive notice that they won’t be deported, and would grant work permits to allow them to compete for jobs legally.
To qualify, illegal immigrants would need to show they were brought to the U.S. as children, or to show that they have children who are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents of the country.
The White House defends the policy as a reasonable use of Mr. Obama’s powers to set priorities for enforcing laws, and to stop the breakup of families because of deportation.
It now faces multiple legal challenges in federal court in southern Texas and one in Washington, D.C.
The D.C. challenge, filed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, is moving quickly. The judge has scheduled a hearing on a preliminary injunction next week.
The Obama administration filed a brief late Monday in the D.C. case defending the policy.
Joyce R. Branda, the acting assistant attorney general who is leading the case, argued that Congress has provided too little money and the administration can deport fewer than 400,000 immigrants a year out of the total population of more than 11 million.