Republicans and law-enforcement officials Tuesday praised a federal appeals court ruling supporting 26 states in their battle against President Barack Obama's executive amnesty for illegal immigrants, with Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu telling Newsmax that "this is our republic working with checks and balances, holding the executive branch in his overreach of power accountable."
"There is hope in the fact that legitimate powers within the government have called the president's action rightfully into question and have held him to account," said Babeu, sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, about 70 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who brought the lawsuit in December as attorney general, said that "the president's attempt to bypass the will of the American people was successfully checked again today."
He had said earlier on Twitter: "The Constitution wins."
Abbott's successor, Ken Paxton, said: "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.
"Telling illegal aliens that they are now lawfully present in this country, and awarding them valuable government benefits, is a drastic change in immigration policy.
"The president’s attempt to do this by himself, without a law passed by Congress and without any input from the states, is a remarkable violation of the U.S. Constitution and laws," Paxton added.
Two of the three judges on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Tuesday that Obama's executive actions, which would grant deportation relief and work permits to as many as 5 million illegals, should remain on hold while the government appeals an earlier decision.
"Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay and the request to narrow the scope of the injunction," the judges said in their ruling.
Those backing the states were Republican-appointed judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod. Judge Stephen Higginson, appointed by President Obama, provided a lengthy dissent.
The amnesty orders
were first put on hold on Feb. 16 by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen after the states, all led by Republican governors, alleged that taking in the illegals would be overly burdensome.
Hanen, who sits in Brownsville, Texas, ruled that the safest course was to halt the amnesty
until he could hear the full case, in which the states also contended that the administration had not followed proper procedures in moving forward with the unilateral actions.
The White House, however, acknowledged last month
that they had broken Hanen's injunction by issuing thousands of work permits, raising the possibility of sanctions in the case.
The administration said Tuesday that Smith and Walker Elrod chose to "misinterpret the facts and the law."
"The president's actions ... are squarely within the bounds of his authority and they are the right thing to do for the country," said White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine.
The Justice Department is evaluating the ruling and considering its next steps, a U.S. official said. The administration appealed to the New Orleans court in March.
Pro-immigrant groups blasted the ruling in a telephone conference call with reporters. Debbie Smith, general counsel of the Service Employees International Union, vowed that 2016 GOP presidential candidates who opposed immigration reform would be held accountable at the polls.
"As we look to 2016, those contenders who continue to block or flip-flop on immigration reform be informed that the immigrant vote will remember and will deliver a strong mandate that we want a lasting immigration solution and not the flip-flops that have occurred by the Republican 26 plaintiff states," Smith said.
Obama's executive orders, announced in a Nov. 20 prime-time speech on cable television, would have created a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), that would provide tax rebates to illegals.
The orders also would expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Obama created in 2012 for illegals who were brought to the United States as children, from two years to three years.
Earlier that day, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued new deportation guidelines
for illegals, giving the highest priority to those who threaten national security or have been convicted of being in a street gang or related offenses.
The Fifth Circuit will rule again in the coming months on whether the Obama administration can appeal the block to the executive order. That decision may be made by a new panel of judges and will take into account more evidence.
The states also contended that Obama's amnesty plan would have granted illegals government services such as tax credits, Social Security, Medicare, driver’s licenses, unemployment insurance, and the right to international travel.
The state jurisdictions also would have been compelled to finance additional education, healthcare and law-enforcement costs.
Besides Texas, the other states involved in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
"The president said 22 times that he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, and the courts have agreed once again," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday. "House Republicans are leading the fight to rein in President Obama’s executive overreach and uphold our Constitution, and we will continue to follow this case closely."
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia called the decision "another victory for the Constitution and the American people.
"President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration poses a clear and present danger to our Constitution, and I am pleased that the president’s actions continue to be halted so that the states’ lawsuit can continue to move forward."
Utah Sen. Mike Lee said the ruling represented a "well-reasoned decision to prevent President Obama from implementing his lawless executive amnesty program."
"Our immigration system is in desperate need of reform," Lee said. "But that reform must be agreed to and passed by Congress, not unilaterally imposed on the American people by the executive branch."
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith said that "the American people should also be encouraged by today’s ruling, which shows that the courts are still willing to put a check on an overreaching executive branch."
Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee praised the court for doing "what congressional Democrats would not: hold President Obama accountable for following the law.
"We have three branches of government for a reason and, as today’s decision affirms, the president simply cannot circumvent a clearly established separation of powers to make up his own immigration laws on a political whim," she said.
Her Volunteer State colleague, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has proposed legislation to freeze DACA, said that Obama's executive orders have "turned every town into a border town and every state into a border state. We must prioritize legal immigration and enforce the rule of law."
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, declared, "on to the Supreme Court."
"The U.S. Constitution vests the Congress with authority over immigration and naturalization. And as U.S. District Judge Hanen pointed out, President Obama simply treated Congress — and Article 2 — as if they didn’t exist."
"We are a Constitutional Republic, not a banana republic," Martin added. "Our Constitution, with its three co-equal branches, is the roadmap for the governing process.
"As much as this would-be imperial president wishes it were otherwise, we are a nation of laws, not of his arbitrary whims," Martin said.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law & Justice, said the organization filed a brief
on behalf of more than 100 congressional Republicans supporting the lower court's decision.
"We urged the appeals court to leave the preliminary injunction in place, arguing that the Obama administration’s request to remove the injunction was just another flawed attempt to circumvent the legal process and to put in place an unconstitutional power grab that is not only unlawful but unconstitutional as well.
"We’re confident the court ultimately will conclude that President Obama’s overreach, in effect, changed the law — a violation of the separation of powers," Sekulow added.
"Impatient presidents don’t get to change the law."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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