A federal judge in Texas last night temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s executive actions on immigration. The judge, responding to a suit filed by 26 Republican-run states, did not rule on the legality of immigration orders but said there was sufficient merit to the challenge to warrant a suspension while the case goes forward.
No law gave the administration the power “to give 4.3 million removable aliens what the Department of Homeland Security itself labels as ‘legal presence,’ ” the judge said in a memorandum opinion. “In fact the law mandates that these illegally-present individuals be removed. The Department of Homeland Security “has adopted a new rule that substantially changes both the status and employability of millions.” . . . It was a major, if temporary, defeat for the administration, which argued that the case should be thrown out as meritless, “based on rhetoric, not law.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a statement declaring, “The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed. We will continue to follow the case as it moves through the legal process. Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security department.”
The administration will appeal the ruling, but where does this leave the spending impasse? On one hand, Senate Democrats may feel heat to allow at the very least debate on the House bill to begin in the Senate. But ultimately the Republicans’ best hope resides in the courts, which can block the president’s action and affirm their objections to the president’s unilateralism. If Republicans were to pass even a short-term “clean” spending bill, they could honestly say that they have not capitulated, but rather, are operating with the assurance the president will not be able to work his will.
In sum, the ruling does several things. It vindicates the Republicans’ objection and Republican leaders’ strategy that pushed the standoff into the new Congress. Second, for now it gives Republicans an escape hatch. And perhaps most important, it throws the entire executive action into uncertainty, making it much less likely that people will risk stepping forward to identify themselves for delayed deportation. The ruling, however, does not change one political reality: The House has yet to do what the Senate did — namely, pass an immigration bill that attempts to grapple with even some of the problems afflicting our immigration scheme. Now would be an ideal time for the House to push ahead with a series of bills to address the border, interior enforcement and H-1B visas. After all, the court is saying that immigration laws must be passed and changed by congressional action. Now it is time to do just that.