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Federal court blocks DHS from implementing Obama’s immigration reforms

February 18th, 2015  |  Lisa Milam

By Lisa Milam-Perez, J.D.

Throwing cold water on President Obama’s immigration reform agenda, a federal district court in Texas has blocked the Department of Homeland Security from implementing its Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, which included halting deportation proceedings and issuing work permits and other benefits to a specific class of undocumented immigrants. (The court also barred a proposed expansion of a similar program implemented in 2012 on behalf of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States when they were 16 years old or younger.) The DAPA program, set forth in a memorandum issued by the DHS secretary, sought to implement immigration reform measures proposed by the President last November in the face of a seemingly intractable immigration debate. The White House has indicated it will appeal the decision, handed down in a lawsuit against the federal government brought by 26 states (State of Texas v. United States, February 16, 2015, Hanen, A.).

Careful to note that there was no formal executive action on the table (there having been no executive orders or other proclamations at issue), and that it was not weighing in on the wisdom of the actual policies before it, the court framed the question as whether U.S. law, including the Constitution, authorized the secretary to take the actions challenged here. Resolving the question with a “no,”—at least without benefit of notice-and-comment rulemaking—the court enjoined the agency from implementing the DAPA program. It also emphasized, though, that it had not yet entertained the merits of the states’ constitutional challenge or their substantive claims under the Administrative Procedure Act.

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