A three-judge panel will now decide the fate of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration after this Friday’s hearing which stirred hot debates between lawyers that represent the federal government and those that work for 26 states that had challenged in court those actions.
In February, an appalled federal district judge from Texas ordered that the presidential immigration plan would be blocked indefinitely. The plan was initially designed to shield up to five million illegal aliens from immediate deportation and provide them with work permits. But Texas Judge Andrew S. Hanen said that the President abused his powers by not complying with administrative procedures.
On Friday, the argument held in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, lasted more than two and a half hours. Lawyers of both sides tried to promote their point, while a series of hints on what judges will deliberate in the following days came up.
Justice Department attorneys had a hard time since one of the three judges kept questioning them on Obama administration’s authority on changing the immigration law and to what extent that may be done.
Judge Jennifer Elrod, who had been appointed by President George W. Bush, described Obama’s executive actions on illegal immigration as “unlawful” and impossible to be challenged. Judge Elrod also said that the government’s arguments could be used to allow just about every illegal immigrant to reside in the country legally.
But lawyers who represented Texas and 25 other states that currently oppose Obama’s immigration plan had to face some sharp criticism coming from Judge Stephen A. Higginson, who was appointed by President Obama. Judge Higginson repeatedly told them that courts had no authority to interfere with the executive branch’s actions.
He also argued that Texas solicitor general’s arguments could block a wide range of other executive actions. So, “that’s a dangerous rule for us to write,” Mr. Higginson concluded.
But Judge Jerry E. Smith, the third judge of the panel, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, did not comment too much nor did he intervened as the arguments were brought before him amid background noise coming from hundreds of immigrants gathered outside the courthouse to protest.
All in all, the panel’s decision could prove critical to President Obama’s immigration plan and may or may not support his political promise to the Latino community to discourage deportations that often tragically tore apart entire families. The panel did not disclose when it would rule.
Justice Department lawyers deemed Texas Judge Hanen’s injunction from Febuary as “unprecedented” and urged the three-judge panel to allow the administration to resume its executive actions on immigration. On the other hand, Texas lawyers suggested that the injunction should stand.
“The executive branch is bound by our legal system and U.S. Constitution — it cannot simply create new laws unilaterally,”
Texas Attorney General said after this Friday’s hearing.
But if the Texas injunction is not overturned, President Obama’s immigration plan could be suspended for months and may not be resumed before Mr. Obama leaves office.
However, this Friday’s hearing was a rare procedural event, as appeals courts usually make decisions on written court briefs. Instead, both sides had the chance to publicly expose their arguments during an hour. Normally, in Supreme Court cases lawyers cannot argue more than half an hour.
Image Source: Steve Harvey