Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans refused to lift the temporary hold placed on parts of President Obama's executive actions on immigration reform. The Justice Department had asked the 5th Circuit to reverse a Texas judge who had agreed to temporarily block the president's plan in February, after twenty-six states filed a lawsuit alleging Obama's actions were unconstitutional. In the two-to-one ruling, 5th Circuit judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod said that "the federal government lawyers are unlikely to succeed" in the underlying lawsuit filed by twenty-six states including Texas against the executive actions. Back in February, 2015, US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas, in a scathing decision accusing the government of deception in their representations, ruled to place the temporary hold on President Obama's executive action to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and to create the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. The expanded DACA had been set to take effect February 18, and the DAPA program was scheduled to begin May 19. These programs would have granted work authorization and certain protections from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants.
“The separation of powers and checks and balances remain the law of the land, and this decision is a victory for those committed to preserving the rule of law in America,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement. While the decision is a victory for Texas and the twenty-five other states which supported the lawsuit, another fourteen states and the District of Columbia have appealed the decision, arguing that the Texas lawsuit failed to consider the economic benefits of immigration action.
''Ultimately, this is just a pause button,'' Laura Collins, the director of immigration policy at the American Action Forum, said to PRI. ''Until the court is able to rule fully on the merits of this, this doesn’t really talk about whether this program is appropriate for the executive branch to put forward.'' White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in a statement that the two-to-one 5th Circuit Court ruling ''chose to misinterpret the facts and the law.''
US Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez also said in response to last week’s court decision:
It is disappointing but not unexpected given the make-up of the Fifth Circuit and the panel hearing this preliminary case. I am confident millions of immigrants will eventually apply for DAPA and DACA, because the law is undeniably on the President's side, as is public opinion. Meanwhile, I continue to work with Democrats and others who are preparing immigrant communities for the application process once the legal maneuvering is resolved and the courts reject the arguments of the Republican Governors and Attorneys General. The longer the court process takes, the harder it is to imagine a Republican candidate remains competitive in a bid for the White House, because increasingly, this will be the defining and decisive 2016 campaign issue.
This ruling will not affect H-4 dependent spouses who are now eligible to apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) as part of President Obama's executive actions.