Thursday, May 28, 2015

Obama Amnesty Stays Shut Down

My new article in today's FrontPageMag:

Obama Amnesty Stays Shut Down

By Matthew Vadum

President Obama’s unilaterally imposed immigration amnesty plan will remain suspended for the time being, thanks to a federal appeals court ruling that serves as a desperately needed reminder to Americans that the United States is not supposed to be a one-man dictatorship.

On Tuesday two members of a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed an injunction to remain in place that blocks Obama from moving forward with his immigration plan.

The ruling effectively extends the stay that was ordered in February by a courageous Texas-based federal judge, Andrew S. Hanen, who found that Obama probably exceeded his authority in unilaterally granting benefits to more than 4 million illegal aliens. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said at the time that the U.S. District Court ruling was a “major victory for the rule of law” and “a major turning point in the fight to stop Obama’s lawless amnesty.”

The Obama administration had asked the panel to lift Judge Hanen’s injunction and whittle down its scope but the appellate court determined that the government would probably lose on the merits when the case went to a full trial in Hanen’s court. The case arose out of litigation filed by Texas and 25 other states against Obama’s immigration initiative.

According to a summary of the 70-page opinion in the New York Times:
two judges wrote that Texas had shown it would incur significant costs in issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants who would be allowed to stay in the country. The judges, Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Elrod, also rejected the administration’s argument that the programs could not be reviewed by the courts because they stemmed from policy decisions by the president on how to enforce the immigration laws.
Republican lawmakers hailed the appellate court decision which the Obama administration has vowed to challenge in court.

The ruling was a “well-reasoned decision to prevent President Obama from implementing his lawless executive amnesty program,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform. But that reform must be agreed to and passed by Congress, not unilaterally imposed on the American people by the executive branch.”

Sen. James Lankford, (R-Okla.) said the new ruling “upholds the separation of powers and is a reflection of how our checks and balances system should work.” Lankford is among 112 members of the House and Senate who have put their names on a brief filed in the case that will be considered on July 6 by another panel from the Fifth Circuit.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) who used to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Obama’s “refusal to enforce our duly enacted immigration laws” amounts to “an act of arrogance and lawlessness.”

For those interested in the particulars of the Circuit Court decision, it stated that the administration’s plan “makes aliens who were not otherwise qualified for federal public benefits eligible for ‘social security retirement benefits, security disability benefits, [and] health insurance under Part A of the Medicare program.’” Furthermore,
“[E]ach person who applies for deferred action pursuant to the [Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, or DAPA] criteria … shall also be eligible to apply for work authorization for the [renewable three-year] period of deferred action.”
These procedures would empower illegal aliens to “‘obtain a Social Security Number,’ ‘accrue quarters of covered employment,’ and ‘correct wage records to add prior covered employment,’” the opinion stated.

The Circuit Court cautioned that if the program is ultimately struck down, illegals who got involved in the amnesty programs would have received benefits improperly. “Under the injunction, [the Department of Homeland Security] can choose whom to remove first; the only thing it cannot do is grant class-wide lawful presence and eligibility for accompanying benefits as incentives for low-priority aliens to self-identify in advance.”

Conservative champion Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) has previously accused President Obama of “systematically” dismantling the nation’s immigration enforcement system. Obama’s attacks on America’s immigration laws are “undermining the very rule of law upon which our nation was founded and upon which its greatness depends.”

At the PowerLine blog, John Hinderaker suggests that it’s not quite time for executive amnesty opponents to pop champagne corks. He writes that the case is far from over.

“[W]hile this is not always clear from news accounts, no court has yet gotten anywhere near the merits of the case.” Judge Hanen determined that the states suing the federal government “are likely to prevail on a single argument on the merits, that is, that the administration did not comply with the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act in adopting DAPA.”

The larger issues, including the constitutionality of Obama’s unilateral amnesty order, “have not yet been addressed in even a preliminary way,” Hinderaker writes.

Hinderaker may be right but there is still cause to rejoice when federal judges act like judges and enforce the laws of the land that an increasingly despotic chief executive is trying to subvert.

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