Federal Court Blocks Immigration Executive Order Implementation

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 10, 2015

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court's blocking of the implementation of an Executive Order issued by President Obama in November 2014. The measure would have expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and implemented a related program, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Individuals seeking protection under DACA's expansion and the DAPA program will continue to be unable to seek work permits and lawful immigration status in the US.

Twenty-six states challenged the President's executive order as unlawfully legislating immigration issues that would, and should, be addressed by Congress. Texas and other states argued that the executive actions would result in higher costs to the states, such as issuing driver's licenses and processing unemployment compensation benefits to a large number of people who would be eligible for work permits due to their newly lawful presence in the US.

The Fifth Circuit agreed with the states, upholding a May ruling by a federal district judge that placed the immigration programs on hold. By upholding the lower court's temporary injunction, the appeals court affirmed that the states not only have the ability to bring their claims under the Administrative Procedure Act and the federal Constitution, but also that there is a substantial likelihood that the states will prevail on those claims.

Specifically, the appeals court ruling affirms a temporary hold on the implementation of the President's orders, discussing at length the states' contention that the substance of the orders should have been introduced through the legislative process and subject to notice-and-comment rulemaking.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that "[t]hroughout this process, the Obama Administration has aggressively disregarded the constitutional limits on executive power, and Texas, leading a charge of 26 states, has secured an important victory to put a halt to the president's lawlessness."

The US Department of Justice takes a different view, and is expected to appeal the circuit court ruling to the Supreme Court. However, that appeal may not be heard before President Obama leaves office in early 2017.