A federal district court judge in Pennsylvania has ruled parts of President Barack Obama's executive immigration orders unconstitutional, accusing him of bypassing Congress in granting deportation relief and work permits to as many as 6 million illegal immigrants.
The decision on Tuesday by Judge Arthur Schwab in Pittsburgh dismisses the White House's legal reasoning in granting the orders, which Obama announced in a prime-time speech on cable television on Nov. 20.
Schwab's ruling, described by The Washington Times
as "scathing," said that the president had the authority to issue executive orders and interpret the law.
But "Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution ... and therefore is unconstitutional," Schwab said in his 38-page opinion
He also ruled that the policy allows illegals "to obtain substantive rights."
The judge's decision does not invalidate any of Obama's executive orders, but it's a bad sign for the administration, which is facing several challenges to his immigration policy on several fronts.
The administration late Monday urged dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who contends that Obama's program serves as a magnet for more illegal entries into the U.S.
Arpaio says the new arrivals will commit crimes and thus burden his law enforcement resources.
In a court filing late Monday, the Justice Department told U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington that the sheriff's theory is speculative and unsubstantiated and that Arpaio has failed to show that he would suffer any injury at all from the federal government's program.
The sheriff's challenge to the federal program is "meritless," the Justice Department said in its filing.
The agency said the federal program "does not grant legal status to any alien. Rather, it authorizes a temporary exercise of prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis for certain individuals who have been in the United States since 2010 and have deep ties to the community."
Arpaio filed the lawsuit within hours of Obama's national speech announcing the actions.
Separately, 24 states have joined in a federal court challenge in Texas alleging that Obama violated constitutional limits on presidential power. The states' lawsuit says the president's action by executive order will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis along the southern border.
Schwab's ruling on Tuesday came as part of a deportation case he was hearing.
In the executive orders Obama announced last month, illegals who are parents of U.S. citizens and residents already with green cards will be spared from deportation for three years. They must register with the federal government, pass a background check, and pay taxes.
They would receive work permits and Social Security numbers, though none of the illegals would be eligible for citizenship or green cards. They would, however, be guaranteed by the government that — unless they committed a serious crime — they would not be deported.
The orders also allowed Obama to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Obama created in 2012 for illegals who were brought to the United States as children by their parents.
Republicans have slammed the president's unilateral actions, and a $1.1 trillion omnibus budget bill passed by Congress over the weekend will finance the Department of Homeland Security only through February. The rest of the government would be funded through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2015.
Under Obama's unilateral action, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued new deportation guidelines on immigration enforcement that superceded orders dating back as far as 2009. Homeland Security oversees immigration.
The new directives give immigration officials "prosecutorial discretion," along with the ability to make "discretionary enforcement decisions" in deciding "whom to stop, question, and arrest; whom to detain or release; whether to settle, dismiss, appeal, or join in a motion on a case; and whether to grant deferred action, parole, or stay of removal instead of pursuing removal in a case."
Because of the agency's "limited resources," the new guidelines also prioritize criminal illegals for deportation, with the greatest priority given to those who threaten national security or who have been convicted of being in a street gang or related offenses.
Those convicted of such "significant misdemeanors" as domestic violence, selling or trafficking drugs, and possession of illegal firearms are farther down the list, according to the document.
In his ruling, Schwab said that the guidelines established an entirely new system for granting relief to large groups of individuals — and that goes well beyond the Obama's authority.
The president, in essence, is writing laws — and that falls within the purview of Congress.
The case leading to Schwab's ruling involves Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, 42, an illegal from Honduras, who was stopped by local police in a traffic stop on April 7. He was deported in 2005 — after being arrested by border patrol agents in New Mexico — but had illegally re-entered the United States through the South Texas border earlier this year.
According to the ruling, Juarez-Escobar was on his way to work for his brother, a legal immigrant who owned a landscaping business in Pittsburgh.
He was reported to federal immigration authorities after he was stopped in April. He then was charged with illegal re-entry.
In the case, Schwab questioned why Obama’s new orders did not apply to Juarez-Escobar, who had pleaded guilty to the illegal re-entry charge, the Times reports. Schwab had said that Juarez-Escobar could change his plea.
He also challenged Obama’s rationale in that the new orders only applied to parent-child relationships and not to Juarez-Escobar, who testified that he had a "close bond" with his brother.
Schwab ruled that Juarez-Escobar appeared to be "more 'family' than 'felon,'" which appeared to make him a low priority under the deportation guidelines.
Reuters contributed to this report.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.