Opponents of the Obama administration’s immigration policy won a temporary victory in federal court Monday, but according to some experts, that decision is unlikely to survive legal scrutiny.
Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas dealt a blow to the White House on Monday when he blocked executive actions that would shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The Texas judge’s preliminary injunction will hold until he delivers a ruling on the legality of the actions — unless an appeals court overrules Hanen in the meantime.
Hanen granted an injunction after Texas and 25 other state governments sued the federal government in the Southern District of Texas in an attempt to get Obama’s executive action ruled unconstitutional.
University of Texas at Austin Law School professor William Beardall said he believes the ruling will turn out to be “a temporary bump in the road” for President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. The actions, he said, are “based on long established executive prerogative, which has been exercised by [Ronald] Reagan and George H.W. Bush and every president since then."
“It’s basically a political ruling,” added Beardall. “It’s based more on political rhetoric and the political opinions of Judge Hanen than any established legal principle."
Carl Hampe, an attorney who worked on immigration policy for Reagan and George H.W. Bush told The Guardian late last year that Obama was “probably proceeding within his legal authority, even though he would be at its outer boundaries."
Hanen ruled that the federal government, in drafting the executive actions, had “clearly legislated a substantive rule without complying with the procedural requirements under the Administration Procedure Act.”
But the administration maintains that rather than drafting a substantive rule it simply exercised prosecutorial discretion by saying it would opt not to deport certain immigrants without documents.
Beardall said Hanen’s court was chosen deliberately.
“Judge Hanen was already known for having made kind of unjudicial comments offering up his own political opinions about immigrants and about the president’s immigration policy, outside the context of the actual rulings that were before him,” said Beardall. "So since he was known as someone who was willing to raise his anti-immigrant, anti-administration policy opinions, that’s why Texas and these other states filed this lawsuit in his court."
In previous opinions, Hanen has said that the administration’s immigration policy “endangers America,” and that talking about immigration in his part of Texas “is like talking to Noah about the flood."
In his most recent decision, Hanen wrote that “many states ultimately bear the brunt of illegal immigration” and suggested that “the specter of terrorism” factors into current border security concerns.
ACLU policy counsel Chris Rickerd said the most recent ruling “certainly has language that indicates Judge Hanen has opinions about other issues in this case." Yet Rickerd emphasized that Hanen's decision was limited in its scope, and expressed confidence that "in due course" the legality of the actions would be upheld.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised Hanen’s ruling as “a victory for the rule of law in America and a crucial first step in reining in President Obama’s lawlessness."
"This injunction makes it clear that the President is not a law unto himself, and must work with our elected leaders in Congress and satisfy the courts in a fashion our Founding Fathers envisioned,” said Paxton in a statement.
Obama said Tuesday that the Justice Department would appeal the decision.
“The law is on our side and history is on our side," the president told reporters. "This is not the first time where a lower court judge has blocked something or attempted to block something that ultimately is going to be lawful.”
Until the injunction is overruled or Haden finalizes his ruling, the Department of Homeland Security has announced it will comply with the decision.