Appeals Court Rebuffs Obama's Request to Lift Immigration Executive Order Injunction

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

May 29, 2015

A divided 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to lift a temporary hold on President Obama's executive order that would have allowed up to five million undocumented workers to remain in the US if they met certain conditions. A federal district court judge had blocked the order from taking effect in February.

The May 26 ruling by the three-judge appeals panel means eligible undocumented immigrants remain unable to apply for programs aimed at providing work permits and deportation relief. However, other elements of the executive order remain unaffected, most notably the extension of employment authorization for spouses of professional workers in the H-1B visa category who have their permanent immigrant visas approved.

Texas and 25 other states led the charge against the November 2014 executive order, arguing in this lawsuit that the president's action was unconstitutional. The states claimed the order circumvented the notice and comment procedure required by the Administrative Procedures Act and gave amnesty to illegal workers. Meanwhile, 15 other states including California had filed briefs supporting the Obama administration's order.

The order represented an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), a program that permits teenagers and young adults who were born outside of the US, but raised in this country to apply for employment authorizations and protection from deportation. The order also would have implemented the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA) in May and given covered individuals three years of deportation relief.

While the 5th Circuit's ruling is a defeat for the administration's efforts to change immigration policy, the decision only means that the temporary injunction remains in place pending additional court proceedings.

The Justice Department has said it will not seek Supreme Court review of the ruling. Instead, it will focus on defending the merits of the injunction itself in a separate appeal that will be argued the week of July 6 before the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit.