Obama immigration battle moves to 5th Circuit after judge upholds stay

In an expected move that leaves the status of up to 5 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally unchanged, a federal judge in Texas  refused to lift his order putting on hold President Obama’s executive action dealing with the politically charged issue.

In a pair of rulings late Tuesday night, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen refused a government request to allow the Obama programs to resume while the broader issues are being litigated.

A coalition of 26 states led by Texas is fighting Obama’s executive action, announced in November. The action expanded the pool of people who could receive some legal immigration standing to include the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

Obama also wanted to increase from two years to three years the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, designed to help so-called Dreamers.

Texas officials praised the judge’s rulings while the White House condemned it.

“The district court in Texas has wrongly continued to prevent those lawful, common sense policies from taking effect — even in the many states where local leaders and law enforcement officials have said they support the executive actions and expect their communities to benefit from them,” said a White House represtivative speaking on background. “The Department of Justice has appealed the district court’s decision and sought an emergency stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.”

In a statement, Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton again attacked the Obama administration.

“As the judge has affirmed, once put into effect, President Obama’s executive amnesty program will be virtually impossible to reverse,” Paxton said. “Any premature implementation could have serious consequences, inflicting irreparable harm on our state, and this ruling is key in determining the extent to which the federal government did not present the full truth in this case.”

Jose Palacios, 23, of Tampa, Fla., received DACA relief and his mother — who came to the United States illegally from Mexico more than 20 years ago — had hoped to apply for a similar program for parents known as DAPA before the lawsuit. Three of Palacios’ siblings have DACA status, five are citizens.

Palacios said he was not surprised by the conservative South Texas judge’s ruling.

“We knew his stance … what his intentions are: to continue to hurt immigrant families across the country,” Palacios told the Los Angeles Times.

“It looks like we have to continue to fight,” he said, while opponents of the executive action “continue to attack our community.”

Since the lawsuit began, he said his mother has grown “discouraged.”

“Sometimes my mom loses hope that anything is going to happen,” Palacios said.

He said he planned to explain Tuesday’s ruling to her, adding that he would be in New Orleans next Friday to protest ahead of the 5th Circuit’s hearing on the appeal,” Round 2 of this fight.

Nora Preciado, a staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center based in Los Angeles, said she planned to attend the appeals court hearing.

“This is just the first step in the legal battle,” Preciado said, adding, “We are all looking forward to the hearing on the same motion to stay at the 5th Circuit” next Friday in New Orleans.

Her group submitted an amicus brief supporting the federal government to the 5th Circuit this week.

“It’s highly unusual for the court to hear arguments on a motion to stay,” she said, “I think it shows the court will carefully consider the arguments …. We remain hopeful that they will suspend the injunction while the case moves forward on the merits.”

Earlier this week, a panel of the 5th Circuit rejected a challenge to Obama’s 2012 executive action, upholding a lower court’s earlier ruling in a case involving Mississippi and some border agents.

In the latest actions, Judge Hanen issued two orders — one refusing to lift his injunction, the other detailing what he called the federal government’s misleading statements. He ordered the government to provide more information by April 21.

A clearly annoyed Hanen said he would not throw out the government’s pleadings, even though that was “perhaps merited based upon the government’s misconduct.” But, he continued, that would not “be in the interests of justice or in the best interest of this country.” Instead, the issues “should be decided on their relative merits according to the law.”

The latest ruling came after several testy exchanges with prosecutors, who took 15 days to inform the judge that federal officials had granted 108,000 applications for deferred action after Obama announced the program in November. That delay, Hanen wrote in the Tuesday night order, “was neither prompt nor fully candid.”

At issue, lawyers for the federal government say, is confusion over a pair of Obama’s immigration actions.

The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, would affect more than 4 million people who have lived in the United States for at least five years and are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

It would offer three-year work permits to parents who qualify, and would not be open to recent arrivals or to people with serious criminal records.

The DAPA action also included a provision to change DACA. And this is where the confusion began.

The DAPA executive action included expanded deferred action for qualified DACA applicants, from a two-year reprieve to three years. Although 26 states were suing to block DAPA, federal government lawyers allowed DACA applicants to apply for a three-year reprieve.

More than 100,000 of them did.

Hanen, at times visibly angry in the hearings, wasn’t informed of the accepted applicants for weeks after the suit began and threatened to sanction the Justice Department if he found that government lawyers had misled him about the rollout of the immigration actions.

“The court expects all parties, including the government of the United States, to act in a forthright manner and not hide behind deceptive representations and half-truths,” Hanen wrote Tuesday night.

Hennessy-Fiske reported from Houston, Duara from Tempe, Ariz., and Muskal from Los Angeles. Times staff writer Christi Parsons in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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Obama immigration battle moves to 5th Circuit after judge upholds stay
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