A federal district court judge in Pennsylvania has ruled parts of President Barack Obama’s executive immigration orders unconstitutional, accusing him of bypassing Congress in granting deportation relief and work permits to as many as 6 million illegal immigrants.
The decision on Tuesday by Judge Arthur Schwab in Pittsburgh dismisses the White House’s legal reasoning in granting the orders, which Obama announced in a prime-time speech on cable television on Nov. 20.
Schwab’s ruling, described by The Washington Times as “scathing,” said that the president had the authority to issue executive orders and interpret the law.
But “Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution … and therefore is unconstitutional,” Schwab said in his 38-page opinion.
He also ruled that the policy allows illegals “to obtain substantive rights.”
The judge’s decision does not invalidate any of Obama’s executive orders, but it’s a bad sign for the administration, which is facing several challenges to his immigration policy on several fronts.
The administration late Monday urged dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who contends that Obama’s program serves as a magnet for more illegal entries into the U.S.
Arpaio says the new arrivals will commit crimes and thus burden his law enforcement resources.
In a court filing late Monday, the Justice Department told U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington that the sheriff’s theory is speculative and unsubstantiated and that Arpaio has failed to show that he would suffer any injury at all from the federal government’s program.
The sheriff’s challenge to the federal program is “meritless,” the Justice Department said in its filing.
The agency said the federal program “does not grant legal status to any alien. Rather, it authorizes a temporary exercise of prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis for certain individuals who have been in the United States since 2010 and have deep ties to the community.”
Arpaio filed the lawsuit within hours of Obama’s national speech announcing the actions.
Separately, 24 states have joined in a federal court challenge in Texas alleging that Obama violated constitutional limits on presidential power. The states’ lawsuit says the president’s action by executive order will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis along the southern border.
Schwab’s ruling on Tuesday came as part of a deportation case he was hearing.
In the executive orders Obama announced last month, illegals who are parents of U.S. citizens and residents already with green cards will be spared from deportation for three years. They must register with the federal government, pass a background check, and pay taxes.
They would receive work permits and Social Security numbers, though none of the illegals would be eligible for citizenship or green cards. They would, however, be guaranteed by the government that — unless they committed a serious crime — they would not be deported.
Republicans have slammed the president’s unilateral actions, and a $1.1 trillion omnibus budget bill passed by Congress over the weekend will finance the Department of Homeland Security only through February. The rest of the government would be funded through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2015.
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