Feb. 19, 2015 – The ruling by a Texas federal judge temporarily blocking President Obama’s immigration initiatives is narrowly based on a perceived administrative technicality and not on the constitutionality of the new policy, a University of Houston Law Center professor said Wednesday.
The temporary injunction granted Monday by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen does not affect immigrants eligible under the already existing program, said Professor Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the school’s Immigration Clinic.
Hanen granted a preliminary injunction that blocks President Obama’s expansion of the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program and implementation of the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, which the administration announced last November.
The president’s move, made after Republicans gained full control of the Congress in the midterm elections, was denounced by many in that party as presidential overreach.
But Hoffman said the judge’s ruling was a very technical one based on the program’s supposed violation of the public notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. It did not touch on the unconstitutionality claims under the Take Care clause made by opponents of Obama’s initiatives, which the administration maintains are within the executive authority of the president.
“This is a preliminary injunction, not a ruling on the merits,” Hoffman said.
Moreover, Hoffman said, while the ruling temporarily bars between 4 and 5 million immigrants – primarily those above the threshold age of 31 – who could have sought deferred action under the expanded and new programs, those who were eligible since DACA was first announced in 2012 remain so.
“This is a temporary event,” Hoffman said. “It will have to be settled by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
What happens next depends largely on whether the Department of Justice will appeal the ruling on an emergency basis to the appeals court based in New Orleans. But while Hoffman did not give an opinion on how the conservative Fifth Circuit might rule, he said Obama’s actions are well within established Supreme Court precedents involving presidential discretionary actions.
The UHLC Immigration Clinic is one of 21 organizations that make up the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, established in 2013 to address issues facing immigrant communities in the Houston region. The mission of the collaborative is to create a coordinated network of effective services to help low-income immigrants access the information and legal representation that allows them to make choices in their own best interest.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker and representatives of the HILCS spoke at a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday in part to correct misinformation about the ruling that might be in the public’s mind.