A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked President Barack Obama's effort to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, a day before its first phase was to begin.
Late Monday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled in favor of 26 states, including Texas, that had sued to stop Obama's order.
Obama had said in November that he would use prosecutorial discretion to protect some undocumented immigrants from deportation. The states that sued argued that he had exceeded his constitutional authority and would impose financial burdens on them.
Hanen's temporary injunction was not a ruling on the merits of the executive action, but it did block the first phase of the president’s program from going into effect as planned. The initiative would have expanded a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.
Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson said that he strongly disagreed with the ruling and that the administration would appeal. Johnson, however, said federal employees would comply with the injunction.
Applause for ruling
Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday that he was "proud to report" Hanen's ruling. "In Texas, we will not sit idly by while the president ignores the law and fails to secure the border.”
Others also welcomed the ruling, including a number of Republican lawmakers and activists.
Roy Beck, president and CEO of an organization called NumbersUSA that wants to reduce the number of immigrants to the United States, said undocumented immigrants should not count on directives issued by Obama.
“The same government that takes your information and gives out the documents can potentially change and look for you to round you up and deport you,” he said.
Immigrant-rights activists condemned the decision, saying that Hanen was just one judge in a long process and that he was known for issuing immigration rulings thought by some to be outside the mainstream of legal thought.
“Immigrants, their families and our communities should not despair or be afraid," said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. "In fact, that is a part of the intention behind this political lawsuit. The intention is to create confusion and fear in our communities.”
'Don't panic,' immigrants told
Debbie Smith of the Service Employees International Union had a similar message for immigrant families directly affected by the ruling: “Don’t panic; keep preparing; keep gathering documentation. We think that this is a timeout, a bump in the road.”
While the states' lawsuit against the executive order plays out in court, the issue is also the focus of a bitter partisan fight in Congress.
Republican lawmakers linked funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which expires at the end of this month, to measures blocking the president’s deferred deportations. The bill has not been able to clear a procedural hurdle in the Republican-led Senate because of Democratic opposition. It is not yet clear what impact the Texas ruling will have on what is shaping up to be another high-stakes showdown in Congress.