Obama: Deferred-Deportation Plan Will Win in Appeals Court

Obama: Deferred-Deportation Plan Will Win in Appeals Court
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An immigration ruling by a federal judge in Texas is just a temporary interruption that will not succeed in blocking deportation relief offered to at least four million undocumented immigrants in the United States, President Obama and top White House advisers said Tuesday.

“This is not the first time where a lower court judge has blocked something or attempted to block something that ultimately is going to be lawful, and I’m confident that it is well within my authority,” said Obama, referring to his executive order in November creating the deferred-deportation program.

On Monday, the judge temporarily halted Obama's executive order, giving a coalition of 26 states time to pursue a lawsuit to permanently bar it. 

The administration’s reaction to the judicial setback comes during a showdown between the White House and the Republican-led Congress over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Conservatives seek to legislatively thwart Obama’s immigration executive actions using DHS appropriations as leverage, and face a late-February deadline to resolve differences.

Obama’s policies are being squeezed in the judicial and legislative branches, and while court action dominated headlines Tuesday, Congress’s funding deadline looms next week. In the background are Republicans interested in succeeding Obama in 2017 – potential candidates who are uniformly critical of his policies but sharply divided over how Congress should tackle immigration.

The president, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, said he is confident his immigration executive actions, which expire at the end of his term, are legal and constitutional. He predicted the ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen would be overturned after the Justice Department appeals the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Many analysts predict the complaints tied to the president’s unilateral powers will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

DHS’s programs remain in place, but the U.S. District Court ruling freezes “for the moment” an expanded effort to offer deportation relief to qualifying youth and parents of some children brought to the country illegally decades ago, Cecilia Muñoz, the president’s domestic policy adviser, said in a conference call.

On Wednesday, DHS was to begin the process of selecting new beneficiaries of deportation discretion known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. The application process, now suspended, relied on Obama’s policy, announced Nov. 20.

“For those who are now wondering whether or not they should apply, we are going to refer those questions to the Department of Homeland Security that has already begun the planning process. And we will be prepared to implement this fully as soon as the legal issues get resolved,” the president said.

The administration’s 2012 deferred-deportation initiative known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, “is not affected” by the injunction, Muñoz said. That program, which many prominent conservative legal scholars agree is constitutional, helped about 700,000 avoid the threat of deportation with a new status.  

Obama restated his frustration that lawmakers, who in 2013 passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate but not in the House, risk shutting down DHS to register political opposition, and appear intent on deporting some of the estimated 11 million illegal migrants living in the United States.

Aside from its immigration responsibilities, the department’s 240,000 personnel also protect U.S. borders against terrorism, safeguard the White House against intruders, and help Americans survive natural disasters.

"My strong advice right now to Congress is, if they are seriously concerned about immigration, about our borders, about being able to keep criminals out of this country, then what they should be doing is working together and working with the administration for a comprehensive immigration policy that allows us to be both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants,” he said.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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