COVER: Attorney General Greg Abbott speaking on Dec. 3, 2014, about the lawsuit filed by Texas and other states against the Obama administration over immigration policy. PHOTO by BOB DAEMMRICH/THE TEXAS TRIBUNE
by JULIÁN AGUILAR
BROWNSVILLE — A federal judge on Thursday will hear the state’s argument to forestall the Obama administration from granting deportation relief to the bulk of Texas’ 1.46 million undocumented immigrants, including more than a half million whose children are in the country legally.
A lawsuit filed in early December by Gov.-elect Greg Abbott and representatives of 24 other states seeks to stop President Obama’s executive action announced in November that could grant deportation relief to more than 4 million people living in the country illegally. It would also allow them to apply for renewable work permits if they pass background checks, pay fines and have lived in the country for more than five years.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen will hear arguments in Brownsville on granting a preliminary injunction to stop the program while the lawsuit is waged.
About 533,000 undocumented immigrants in Texas — roughly 40 percent of the state’s undocumented-immigrant population — have children legally in the country. About 1.15 million undocumented immigrants living in Texas have been in the country for at least five years, including about 218,000 who have lived here for more than 20 years.
In his suit, Abbott accuses Obama of violating a provision of the U.S Constitution giving Congress jurisdiction over immigration issues. Abbott also said the action violates what is called the “take care” clause, which “requires the president to take care to execute the laws and clearly prevents this type of action the president is trying to undertake.”
Some legal scholars have claimed that Abbott’s case is on shaky ground, pointing to several dozen previous unilateral presidential acts as proof that Obama is acting within his power. But Abbott claims Texas has suffered from Obama’s immigration policies. He points to the flood of Central Americans, including tens of thousands of unaccompanied children, who breached the Texas-Mexico border last summer, an influx Abbott claims resulted from Obama’s 2012 deferred action initiative granting deportation relief to thousands of undocumented immigrant youths.
Hanen, nominated to the bench in 2002 by George W. Bush, will rule on the injunction just weeks after a federal judge in Arizona threw out a similar suit filed by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a fiery critic of the president. In that case, Judge Beryl Howell said the suit “raises important questions regarding the impact of illegal immigration on this nation, but the questions amount to generalized grievances which are not proper for the judiciary to address,” Fox News reported.
Earlier this week, 12 states and a coalition of law enforcement representatives weighed in to support Obama, filing briefs arguing that his plan would be a boon to the nation’s economy and advance public safety. The El Paso, Harris and Dallas county sheriffs offices, and the Austin Police Department, have signed on in support of Obama’s order.
America’s Voice, a grassroots coalition that lobbies for comprehensive immigration reform, said Abbott filed the suit in Brownsville hoping the conservative Hanen will agree with Texas’ claims. Hanen wrote in 2013 that the Department of Homeland Security should enforce immigration laws and “not break them” by reuniting undocumented children with their parents instead of having the families deported or arrested, Bloomberg reported last year.
On Wednesday the GOP-controlled U.S. House voted to defund the executive action through a measure attached to an appropriations bill.
“These are the actions Congress must take to restore the rule of law and the American people’s trust in their representative government,” U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, said in a statement. “The American people want policies that protect public safety, support the American worker, and increase border security.”
Should the U.S. Senate follow suit, Obama will likely veto the measure.
JULIÁN AGUILAR reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.