On Immigration, “A Mistake Has Been Made” And The Supreme Court Must Fix It

Yesterday’s 2/1 decision by the 5th Circuit was expected, given the make-up of the panel.  But the sharp and persuasive dissent authored by Judge Carolyn Dineen King should not be overlooked, as it points the way for the Supreme Court to step in and correct this egregious mistake.

Judge King cogently asserts that, simply put, the Republican assault on Obama’s executive actions does not belong in court:

The policy decisions at issue in this case are best resolved not by judicial fiat, but via the political process.  That this case essentially boils down to a policy dispute is underscored not only by the dozens of amicus briefs filed in this case by interested parties across the ideological spectrum—Mayors, Senators, Representatives, and law enforcement officials, among others—but also by the district court’s opinion, which repeatedly expresses frustration that the Secretary is “actively act[ing] to thwart” the immigration laws and “is not just rewriting the laws [but is] creating them from scratch.” The majority’s observation that this suit involves “policy disagreements masquerading as legal claims” is also telling.  Whether or not the district court’s characterization of this case is accurate—though the record number of removals in recent years demonstrates that it is not—to the extent some are unhappy with the vigor of DHS’s enforcement efforts, their remedies lie in the political process, not in litigation.

King’s biggest swipe is aimed at her colleagues, Judges Jerry E. Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod, for their inexplicable slow-walking of the decision which threatened to delay Supreme Court review until June 2017, months after President Obama leaves office.

I have a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made.

King writes,

That mistake has been exacerbated by the extended delay that has occurred in deciding this “expedited” appeal.  There is no justification for that delay.

I dissent.

That’s some very tough language.  And it raises the obvious question—which many have been asking since the panel failed to decide the case within the 5th Circuit’s 60 day decision target: Did Judges Smith and Elrod intentionally delay their decision?

As King correctly observes, in March the 5th Circuit granted the Department of Justice’s request to fast-track the case.  On July 10, Smith, Elrod and King heard argument on the merits of the case.  Why then did it take four long months for the panel to decide; especially when there was little doubt about what Smith and Elrod were going to do?

Nearly everyone watching the case knew the two Republican appointees were all but certain to side with the GOP challenge to Obama’s deferred action program. That’s because in May they both refused to temporarily lift Hanen’s hold on the administration’s immigration actions, stating: “Because the government is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal of the injunction, we deny the motion for stay and the request to narrow the scope of the injunction.”

King is right to highlight the court’s incomprehensible delay, which exemplified the legal maxim “Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.”  This case does not just involve legal principles, it involves the lives of 5 million American children and their parents.

On the merits the ruling was hardly a surprise.  The 5th circuit appeals court is considered by many to be the most conservative federal appeals court in the country, and Judges Smith and Elrod are among the most conservative judges on the court. Most observers expected them to side with the Republican governors and attorneys general that filed the case in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, Texas who earlier this year blocked President Obama’s immigration executive actions from being implemented.

At bottom, Smith’s and Elrod’s decision yesterday was a more detailed version of their order earlier this year refusing to lift the hold that Hanen had put on the executive actions.  In her dissenting opinion King methodically and convincingly dismantled their reasoning.  Her forceful analysis, which provides a clear roadmap for the Supreme Court to reverse the 5th Circuit decision, is perhaps best summarized by King herself:

Even if this case were justiciable, the preliminary injunction, issued by the district court, is a mistake. If the [President’s deferred action guidance] is implemented in the truly discretionary, case-by-case manner it contemplates, it is not subject to the APA’s notice-and-comment requirements, and the injunction cannot stand.  Although the very face of the Memorandum makes clear that it must be applied with such discretion, the district court concluded on its own—prior to DAPA’s implementation, based on improper burden-shifting, and without seeing the need even to hold an evidentiary hearing—that the Memorandum is a sham, a mere “pretext” for the Executive’s plan “not [to] enforce the immigration laws as to over four million illegal aliens.”…That conclusion is clearly erroneous.  The majority affirms and goes one step further today.  It holds, in the alternative, that the Memorandum is contrary to the INA and substantively violates the APA.  These conclusions are wrong.  The district court expressly declined to reach this issue without further development…and the limited briefing we have before us is unhelpful and unpersuasive.  For these reasons, as set out below, I dissent.

King also correctly makes a point of reminding her colleagues that deferred action to shield undocumented immigrants is nothing new. It dates back to the Eisenhower administration and has been used by every president since; the most notable example being the “Family Fairness” policy implemented by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr.  As King writes:

Much like pretrial diversion in the criminal context—which also developed over a period of decades without express statutory authorization—deferred action channels limited resources by allowing certain low-priority offenders to work openly and contribute taxes, thus reducing their burden on the system.  Notably, such prosecutorial discretion is heightened in the immigration context.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but in legal terms yesterday’s decision was actually good news for supporters of Obama’s immigration executive actions and for the millions of DREAMers, American children, and parents who have been patiently waiting for justice.  There is still time for the U.S. Supreme Court to take it up this term and make a decision by June.

Of course the Department of Justice must now do everything in its power to get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court immediately.  And once it gets there will be incumbent on the Supreme Court to clean up the integrity that 5th Circuit majority besmirched; to decide the merits of the GOP assault on Obama’s immigration actions without politicizing the case on a partisan basis; to base its decision on facts and precedent rather than conjecture, and do it without engaging in political delays.

[Update:  The Department of Justice has announced it will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the 5th Circuit Appeals Court decision]

What to watch for in the appeal of the Texas #immigration lawsuit to the 5th Circuit

Originally posted by America’s Voice

by David Leopold

In March, the 5th Circuit appeals court granted the Obama Administration’s request to fast-track its appeal of Judge Hanen’s preliminary injunction which temporary blocked implementation of DACA expansion and DAPA. The Administration and the plaintiff states agreed to a briefing schedule which requires that all written arguments be filed with the appeals court by the third week in May.

In the meantime, on April 17, the court of appeals will hear oral argument on the Obama Administration’s request that it stay (or temporarily postpone) the hold Judge Hanen placed on DACA expansion and DAPA when he issued his preliminary injunction on February 16.

Importantly, the April 17 hearing is not a hearing on the appeal of Judge Hanen’s preliminary injunction.  It is a hearing on the Obama Administration’s motion to stay (temporarily postpone) the injunction while the court of appeals considers the case.  In effect, what the Obama administration is asking is that the court of appeals stop Judge Hanen’s order from taking effect until it decides the entire case.  So the April 17 hearing is not the final hearing on the appeal.  If, for some reason, the court of appeals does not postpone the injunction that doesn’t mean the Obama Administration has lost the appeal.  It just means the court of appeals has decided to continue to let Judge Hanen’s temporary delay of DACA expansion and DAPA stay in place while they consider the case.

It’s confusing.  But the upshot is that while the April 17 hearing is very important, it’s hopefully just another step along the way to getting the GOP lawsuit thrown out of court—where it belongs.

The appeals court has not yet scheduled Oral argument on the appeal of the preliminary injunction itself. That should happen toward the end of May once the parties are finished briefing the case.

Given the fast track briefing schedule, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals could issue a decision on the Obama Administration’s full appeal sometime in June or July.  That means that regardless of whether or not the Court of Appeals temporarily lifts the injunction after the April 17 hearing, if the Obama Administration wins the appeal the delay to DAPA/DACA expansion could be no more than a few weeks.

Stay tuned.

A Summary of Today’s Orders Of The 5th Circuit Appeals Court in the Texas #immigration Case

Here is a summary of the orders issued today by the 5th Circuit Appeals Court in the Texas Immigration lawsuit:

  1. The Court granted the Obama Administration’s motion to expedite the appeal of Judge Hanen’s preliminary injunction;
  2. Texas (and the plaintiff states) and the Obama Administration agreed to a briefing schedule lasting until about the third week in May;
  3. On April 17, 2015 the Court of Appeals  will hear oral arguments on the Obama Administration’s motion to stay (lift) Judge Hanen’s preliminary injunction pending appeal. Each side will be allowed one (1) hour for argument (Note: it’s rare for a Court of Appeals panel to hear oral argument on a motion to stay.  These are usually decided on papers alone); and
  4. The states opposing the preliminary injunction–Washington, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont and of the District of Columbia–are granted leave to file amicus briefs in support of the Obama Administration’s appeal of the preliminary injunction.

Note: The Court has set oral argument on the motion to stay the injunction.  Oral argument on the appeal itself has not yet been scheduled. Presumably oral argument on the appeal will be set in the next few weeks.

The Fifth Circuit website indicates that the names of the judges hearing oral argument will not be posted until at least a week before the beginning of the court week.

Given the expedited briefing schedule, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals could issue a decision on the Obama Administration’s appeal of  Judge Hanen’s order sometime in June.  This means that regardless of whether the Court of Appeals temporarily stays (lifts) the injunction, if the Obama Administration wins the case the delay to DAPA/DACA expansion could be no more than a few weeks.

That’s good news.

DAPA Eligible Immigrants Will Not Be Deported and 3 Other Things You Need to Know About the GOP #Immigration Lawsuit

Originally posted on Huffington Post

By David Leopold

Since Judge Hanen issued his controversial midnight order blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration there has been a lot of speculation about what will happen next. Will the Court of Appeals quickly reverse the ruling? How long will it take for the case to wind its way through the appellate courts? Will the U.S. Supreme Court have to weigh in?

I’ve been answering questions like these on DAPAQuestions.org and will continue doing so, but there are three key questions that many people are asking today.

What does the Republican Lawsuit against expanding DACA and the new DAPA program mean for the 5 million immigrants that would qualify for these programs?

The Republican lawsuit against DACA expansion and DAPA was undoubtedly a bump in the road, but it is not the final word. The law is clear and DAPA/DACA expansion policies are legal, despite what Judge Hanen thinks. Until the Texas case is resolved on appeal, DREAMers and parents who were preparing to apply should continue to do so.

Importantly, applicants for the DACA program created in 2012 can and should continue to apply. The lawsuit does not affect them.

Applicants for DACA expansion (the changes announced in 2014) should continue to collect documents and other proof showing of arrival in the U.S. before the age of 16 and that they were in the U.S. on January 1, 2010.

DAPA applicants should collect all necessary proof that they’ve lived in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010 and, on November 20, 2014–the day President Obama announced his immigration executive actions–were the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

And, of course, applicants should be prepared to pay the expected $465 application filing fee which includes the cost of criminal background checks.

Does the Republican lawsuit block all of President Obama’s immigration actions?

No! While the future of DAPA and DACA expansion could be tied up in the courts for the next few weeks or (maybe even months), Republicans cannot touch Obama’s immigration actions that are already being implemented.

Judge Hanen’s order does NOT affect the original, existing DACA program. Individuals who qualify for deferred action based on the criteria outlined in 2012 can and should continue to apply.

Judge Hanen’s order also has NO effect on the immigration enforcement priorities that President Obama laid out as part of his executive actions. These new priorities, which are detailed in a memorandum from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, direct immigration agents to focus on the deportation of aliens who are national security threats, felons, criminal gang members, visa abusers and serious immigration violators.

This means that DREAMers and parents of U.S. citizens who meet the criteria for DACA expansion and DAPA generally should not be deported–even if they come into contact with ICE or CBP. They are only at risk if their deportation would service an “important federal interest” such as individuals who pose a threat to community safety.

Nobody has (or can) seriously question whether or not President Obama’s immigration enforcement priorities are legal. And they go beyond the confines of DACA and DAPA to prevent unjust deportation of other undocumented immigrants with roots and ties to the United States.

But how can we trust that these priorities are being implemented?

This is an important question given past experience with various iterations of “enforcement priorities” memos.

The good news is that so far ICE field offices seem to be following the new enforcement priorities. In Ohio, for example, ICE agents took it upon themselves to postpone the imminent removal of an undocumented mother of a U.S. citizen child after the policies were announced. While the woman still needs DAPA to get stability, at least her low priority removal status allows immigration enforcement agents to focus on dangerous criminals and national security risks. Vox’s Dara Lindreportedlast week that 1000 people have been released from immigration custody since DHS released its enforcement priorities in November.

Nevertheless, immigration advocates must remain vigilant. If a DREAMer, undocumented parent or long-term resident is apprehended, detained or facing removal, ICE officials should be notified immediately that the person is not an enforcement priority and should not be detained or removed. Ideally this should be done through a licensed attorney who is experienced with the deferred action process. If local officials appear to not be following priorities, attorneys should sound alarm bells to higher immigration agency authorities and immigration advocacy groups like America’s Voice Education Fund who can work to ensure that ICE agents closely follow the President’s smart enforcement priorities.

Obama Admin files emergency request to lift #immigration injunction; READ IT HERE–>

2015-02-23 Gov Motion for Stay

2015-02-23 Affidavit 1

2015-02-23 Proposed Order

2015-02-23 Affidavit 2

The Texas Lawsuit Challenging Obama’s Immigration Executive Actions Will Be Thrown Out — If the Judge Follows the Law

Originally posted in Huffington Post by David LeopoldUS-POLITICS-OBAMA-IMMIGRATION

Supporters of immigration reform are gearing up for what many expect to be bad news out of a federal court in Brownsville, Texas. Judge Andrew Hanen is about to decide whether or not to block the executive actions on deportations President Obama announced late last year. The actions, which have been challenged in federal court by the State of Texas and 25 other states, expand DACA — the deportation reprieve offered to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children — and create DAPA, a temporary deportation reprieve for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful residents.

The conventional wisdom is that Judge Hanen will enjoin implementation of the executive actions, perhaps as early as this week. Observers cite to a 2013 opinion Judge Hanen wrote in U.S. v. Navara-Martinez, an unrelated criminal prosecution for alien smuggling. There Judge Hanen, using extremely harsh language, lamented what he described as “the apparent policy of the Department of Homeland Security of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating the border security of the U.S.” He went on to say the “Department of Homeland Security should enforce the laws of the United States — not break them.”

To many that sounds like a jurist itching to rule against Mr. Obama’s executive action on deportations. And it’s likely why the State of Texas filed the case in the Southern District of Texas where Judge Hanen presides. The 30 page lawsuit prominently citesNavara-Martinez in an obvious effort to remind the judge that he has already found that the Administration has colluded in a criminal conspiracy to violate the law.

But the conventional wisdom could be way off. In fact, there’s a strong chance that Judge Hanen will throw the case out — if he correctly follows the law.

Here’s why:

First, and perhaps most importantly, the State of Texas has filed a bogus complaint; it reads more like a factually inaccurate press release than a legal document. It fails to describe exactly how the plaintiff states are or will be concretely harmed by the temporary deportation reprieves; especially when the Administration has used all resources allocated to it annually by Congress to detain and deport undocumented immigrants — approximately 400,000 people a year — leading some to label President Obama the “deporter-in-chief.” Further, at least one federal court has dismissed a similar challenge to the President’s executive actions brought by Joe Arpaio, the infamous anti-immigrant sheriff of Maricopa County Arizona, concluding Arpaio lacked standing to sue. While the decision is not binding on Judge Hanen, its cogent analysis of the complex legal doctrine of standing certainly provides persuasive authority for the dismissal of the Texas lawsuit.

Second, there’s no question Judge Hanen is extremely frustrated with DHS’s policy of reuniting unaccompanied minors with their undocumented parents in the U.S. But his opinion in Navara-Martinez was just that, an opinion. While reasonable minds may differ as to the prudence of using a judicial forum to express such views, nothing Judge Hanen did exceeded the bounds of his authority as a federal judge. Indeed, he noted judges are not authorized to make policy. “This Court takes no position on the topic of immigration reform,” Judge Hanen wrote, “nor should one read this opinion as a commentary on that issue. That is a subject laced with controversy and is a matter of much political debate which is not the province of the judicial branch.”

Third, while Judge Hanen severely criticized what he termed the Administration’s “failure to enforce current United States law,” he did so in the context of an alien smuggling prosecution. Whether or not one agrees with the judge’s views, it’s clear he was neither criticizing the Administration’s civil immigration enforcement priorities nor questioning prosecutorial discretion in general, including deferred action on deportations. “This Court is not opposed to the concept of prosecutorial discretion,” wrote Hanen, “if that discretion is exercised with a sense of justice and common sense.” And it would seem — at least to me — that common sense immigration enforcement includes processes like DACA and DAPA which allow the Administration to focus limited resources on deporting dangerous felons, national security risks and recent border crossers rather than DREAMERS and mothers and fathers of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

Judge Hanen, like all federal judges, has sworn to “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform” his duties under the Constitution. That is a serious oath which requires him to fairly apply the law — regardless of whether or not he personally agrees with the President’s executive actions on deportations. In the meantime many will take comfort in knowing that whatever Judge Hanen decides he will not likely have the last word. That’s all but certain to come from the appellate courts.

New Anti-Immigrant GOP Judiciary Committee Readies Itself for Loretta Lynch Hearing

From America’s Voice

Will Senate GOP Really Turn Critical Hearing on Attorney General Nominee into Anti-Immigrant Brawl?

Washington DC – In Congress and on the campaign trailRepublicans have been busy in the new year burnishing their anti-immigrant brand image.  In Washington, most of the anti-immigration action has taken place in the House of Representatives, where the GOP passed legislation straight from the top of the restrictionists’ wish list, including proposals that block the sensible and legal immigration actions announced by the President last November, end the DACA program for DREAMers, and maximize the deportation of all undocumented immigrants in America.

On the other side of the Capitol, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are preparing to turn the Attorney General confirmation hearings into yet another anti-immigration slugfest.  Rather than focusing on Loretta Lynch’s qualifications to serve as the next Attorney General for the United States, they are planning to spend much of their time criticizing President Obama’s actions on immigration.

Of course this should surprise no one, since the Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee is now stacked with hardliners who have promised to make immigration a dominant focus of the proceedings.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “It’s safe to say that Republicans in Congress are obsessed with immigration.  With all of the issues facing the nation today—terrorism, cybercrime, individual liberties, the role of law enforcement in communities, and so much more—Republicans’ decision to turn the Attorney General confirmation hearings into another anti-immigration press conference is just as irresponsible as it is reprehensible.”

It is difficult to predict which Republican Senator will express his anti-immigration obsession the most colorfully, and earn the most headlines.  There certainly are a lot of contenders on the Committee, such as:

“It seems that Republicans in Congress don’t feel they have sufficiently alienated voters who care about immigration reform.  They have to turn every occasion—no matter how important—into an opportunity to attack President Obama on immigration.  It’s a level of obsession that cries out for an intervention,” said Tramonte.

America’s Voice will be commenting on the hearings via Twitter; follow @AmericasVoice to stay informed.

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on twitter @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice.

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