Stakes on Immigration Rise as Multiple Legal Actions Launch on Obama’s Reforms

Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 27, 2015 — Several states have filed lawsuits against the recent measures, while other states and cities have acted to support the president.

In December, the political dispute over President Obama’s executive action on immigration entered a legal phase. Texas, later joined by 25 other states, filed a lawsuit seeking to block the president’s reforms from taking effect. Subsequent to that lawsuit, a dozen states and the District of Columbia filed an amicus brief in support of the White House. And in late January, the legal battle on the issue added a states-versus-cities element when the mayors of 33 cities proclaimed their intent to file a brief in support of Obama’s executive action.

The initial lawsuit, which was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville, claimed that Obama violated the Constitution in November when he unveiled his executive action that would pave the way for an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.

According to a spokesman for the Texas attorney’s general office, which spearheaded the litigation, the president “lacks the authority to grant this amnesty.” The spokesman, Matthew Thompson, added that the states arrayed against Obama will “fight back against this brazen and illegal abuse of power.”

But the “friend of the court” brief that California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, eight other states and the District of Columbia filed on January 12 defended Obama’s executive action on immigration. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed the brief on behalf of the group, explained the supporters’ position in this statement: “By properly using his authority to set enforcement priorities, the president’s action benefits Washington and other states by improving public safety, keeping families together and aiding our economy.”

The argument that Obama’s executive action on immigration would benefit society took on a municipal character on January 26 when the mayors of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston and 27 other cities signaled their intention to file an amicus brief in support of the White House, arguing that the president’s reforms serve the public interest.

“The states and cities that have lined up in support of the president on his executive action on immigration have had firsthand experience and knowledge of the benefits that immigrants bring to the socio-economic fabric of state and local communities,” said Annie Banerjee, a prominent attorney in Houston who specializes in immigration law. “And the states that have joined the fight against the Obama administration will have a tough time proving that they have suffered irreparable harm as a result of the president’s measures.”

The White House filed a brief in December stating that the Constitution affords the executive branch only “broad discretion over the enforcement of federal law” — including determining whether and when to remove (or not remove) particular aliens — not the ability to change law, which he did not attempt.

“The White House position on Obama’s executive action on immigration already rests on a fairly solid legal footing,” Banerjee said. “But just as compelling is the president’s second argument that the federal government does not have the will or the resources to deport millions of immigrants.”

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