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States and Congressional Republicans Move to Overturn Immigration Action

President Obama’s efforts to bring about immigration reform through executive action are running into heated opposition from Republicans, both in Congress and the courts.

Even as details have yet to be announced, the reform plans are facing a lawsuit. On December 2014, 17 Republican attorney generals across 17 states joined to file the suit Texas v. United States. In the suit, they seek an injunction of President Obama’s initiatives based on unconstitutionality. Since filing, an additional 9 states have joined the litigation bringing the number supporting it to 26.

The 25 states that have joined Texas in suit are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The suit claims that President Obama’s executive action violated U.S. constitutional limits on presidential powers and that the proposed changes fail to comply with steps the federal government is required to take when issuing new rules. The suit also says that executive action would encourage additional illegal crossings into the southwestern border states, which would result in a significant increase in their border security costs.

Opposing the lawsuit are the federal government and also immigration reform advocates that have put together a coalition supporting President Obama’s executive action. The coalition includes 12 states (Washington, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Vermont), the district of Columbia, 33 cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Conference of Mayors. Among the arguments made by President Obama and other senior officials is that the administration has full legal authority for the new measures, which are authorized by existing statutes. U.S. mayors contend that President Obama’s policies will improve their cities’ economies and make residents more willing to engage with police.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanan heard the initial oral arguments in the suit earlier this month. At the hearing, Judge Hanan said he would make a decision expeditiously but gave the government until January 30, 2015 to file a reply brief in the case.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brownsville, Texas was the first major legal challenge to initiatives President Obama announced November 20, 2014. While Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, had also attempted to legally challenge the President’s plan to defer deportations in a Washington, D.C., federal court, he was ultimately unsuccessful. That lawsuit was dismissed, in part because the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims, and because the injuries they suffered were speculative.

In addition, House Speaker John Boehner this week said House leaders are preparing a resolution that could authorize further legal action against President Obama’s executive action. The resolution could authorize the House to take different forms of legal action against the administration such as a lawsuit or Republicans joining the pending lawsuit brought by the states. No decision has been made on what form the legal action will take.

A lawsuit by House Republicans would be the second brought against President Obama with the first being over changes to Obamacare. That suit is still pending.

Also in opposition to President Obama’s immigration reform, Republicans have sought to fund the Department of Homeland Security only until late February.

For more information on the legislative and judicial impact of President Obama’s  executive action, or if you have questions about the details of the reforms, please contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

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