A federal appeals court upheld an injunction against President Obama’s new deportation in a ruling Tuesday that marks the second major legal setback for an administration that had insisted its actions were legal.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Texas, which had sued to stop the amnesty, on all key points, finding that Mr. Obama’s amnesty likely broke the law governing how big policies are to be written.
“The public interest favors maintenance of the injunction,” the judges wrote in the majority opinion.
Mr. Obama had acted in November to try to grant tentative legal status and work permits to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, saying he was tired of waiting for Congress to act.
The full amnesty, known as Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, or DAPA, had been scheduled to begin last week, while an earlier part had been slated to accept applications on Feb. 18. But just two days before that, Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued his injunction finding that Mr. Obama had broken the law.
Administration officials had criticized that ruling, and immigrant-rights advocates had called Judge Hanen an activist bent on punishing immigrants. But Tuesday’s ruling upholds his injunction, giving some vindication to the judge.
It also could mean Mr. Obama will have to appeal to the Supreme Court if he wants to implement his amnesty before the end of his term.
In the 2-1 decision, Judge Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Elrod ruled in favor of Texas, finding that the state would suffer an injury from having to deliver services to the illegal immigrants granted legal status, and ruling that it was a major enough policy that the president should have sent it through the usual rule-making process.
“DAPA modifies substantive rights and interests – conferring lawful presence on 500,000 illegal aliens in Texas forces the state to choose between spending millions of dollars to subsidize driver’s licenses and changing its law,” the judges wrote.
Judge Stephen A. Higginson dissented from Tuesday’s ruling, saying he would have left the fight over immigration policy to the White House and Congress, saying Mr. Obama should have broad discretion to decide who gets deported and how he goes about that.
Just Higginson also said the fight was a political battle, not a legal one
“The political nature of this dispute is clear from the names on the briefs: hundreds of mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, attorneys general, governors, and state legislators – not to mention 185 members of Congress, 15 states and the District of Columbia on the one hand, and 113 members of Congress and 26 states on the other,” he wrote.