Ten U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are asking a federal judge to block an initiative by the Obama administration that defers deportation action against law-abiding undocumented immigrants.
Announced by President Barack Obama last year, the program allows the children of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before age 16 to remain in the country if they have no criminal record and meet other criteria.
The agents sued ICE and the federal Department of Homeland Security over the policy in August. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Dallas is set to hear arguments today on a request to block the measure.
The government’s actions “place the ICE agent plaintiffs on the horns of a dilemma,” their lawyers said in a November court filing. “They must either comply with federal law and face disciplinary actions, or ignore the requirements of federal law and participate in the administration of an illegal program.”
The hearing comes as bipartisan groups in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives negotiate legislation that would resolve the status of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants while addressing issues of border security.
Florida Republican Marco Rubio and New York Democrat Charles Schumer are among those in the Senate negotiations, while Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez and Idaho Republican Raul Labrador are part of the House talks.
The Obama administration’s “Deferred Action” initiative, announced in June, was created with the intent of shifting immigration agency focus toward border security and removal of dangerous people.
“This is not amnesty, this is not immunity,” Obama said then. “This is not a path to citizenship, it’s not a permanent fix.” Deferral, if conferred, is valid for two years, during which the individual may obtain authorization for employment, and can be renewed, according to the ICE website.
The U.S. has opposed the agents’ bid for a court order blocking the program, arguing they’ve shown no likelihood of imminent and irreparable injury, and cannot prevail on the merits.
“The challenged action here (an agency’s issuance of memoranda providing guidance on how it will prioritize its enforcement efforts) is inherently a matter committed to agency discretion by law for which this court lacks jurisdiction,” lawyers for the U.S. said in a December court filing.
O’Connor in January denied a federal government request he throw out the case, ruling that the agents had standing to pursue most of their claims.
The case is Crane v. Napolitano, 3:12-cv-03247, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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