Seventeen states have filed joint lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. And on Thursday the House of Representatives approved — in a relatively tight vote, 219 to 197 — a resolution not to implement the action.
“He thinks he can just sit in the Oval Office and write his own laws,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. “And then comes forward with this proposal to literally disregard enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws. This isn’t going to stand. This legislation says, ‘You can’t do that, Mr. President. There is a rule of law. You need to start enforcing that law.’”
But with the Democrats in control of the Senate until January, the measure will most likely not move forward.
Spearheading the lawsuit is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. “The president's executive order and the actions of federal agencies to implement that executive order directly violate a fundamental promise to the American people,” he said.
The governors and attorneys general following Abbott’s lead are almost all Republican — from Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
“I feel very strongly that the president overstepped his authority in the executive branch and is making law, as opposed to executing law, and we as the states are impacted,” said Gov. Pat McCrory, R-N.C.
In a speech in November, Obama announced that he would allow certain groups of immigrants who arrived in the United States illegally to apply for temporary legal status.
“If you’ve been in America for more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents, if you register, pass a criminal background check and are willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation,” he said.
The suit argues that the action, granting more than 4 million undocumented immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S., is unconstitutional. The president is “rewriting the immigration laws and contradicting the priorities adopted by Congress,” the governors write in the suit. “As such, the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] directive violates the aforementioned provisions in 5 U.S.C. § 706, and it is therefore unlawful. Moreover, the DHS directive is certain to trigger a new wave of undocumented immigration.”
It also argues the action puts an illegal financial burden on state budgets.
“This causes direct harm to the state of South Carolina,” said its Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. “This is a cost to take on the cost of additional immigrants that come here. It is the cost of what is already here, and you say that you are not going to deport them. Not deporting these citizens is going to cost the state money.”
It’s not uncommon for states to sue the federal government over the laws it makes, but a lawsuit over executive action — or inaction — is much rarer.