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Judge Blocks Obama's Executive Action On Immigration


Late last night, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked implementation of President Obama's executive action on immigration. His plan was designed to shield as many as 4 million people living in this country illegally from deportation. The judge said the president had overstepped his authority. This ruling comes a day before the first phase of the president's plan was to go into effect. NPR's Richard Gonzales has been following this case and joins us on the line. Richard, good morning.


GREENE: So, Richard, this executive action has come under some criticism. It's been pretty controversial. What exactly did the judge have to say here?

GONZALES: Well, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, Texas, ruled that the president didn't follow proper rulemaking procedures in seeking to implement his executive action. And the ruling effectively means that for now, the administration can't offer temporary deportation protection to people who were brought here as children or to the parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents. And this ruling comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by 26 states that argued that the executive action causes them dramatic and irreparable injuries. And for example, the state of Texas estimates that it was spending $1.3 million sending police to deal with border security during the surge of unaccompanied minors that crossed the border this past summer. So basically, Texas officials blame those costs on the administration's policies - policies which they say will only encourage more illegal immigration.

GREENE: And, well, this ruling really comes in the 11th hour because the first part of the president's executive action was to go into effect tomorrow, right? So does this throw that off?

GONZALES: Correct. You know, for now, it's on hold. The first phase of that plan was scheduled for Wednesday, when applications were to become available. And in this first phase, these applications were for young people who were brought here as children. It's an expansion of the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. But I don't imagine we'll be seeing anybody applying for it on Wednesday.

GREENE: Well, which makes me wonder, Richard. I mean, what are the administration's options now given this decision?

GONZALES: Well, the administration issued a statement saying the Justice Department will appeal the decision. It will seek a stay of Judge Hanen's injunction from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. And a stay would basically allow the administration to implement the executive action. However, if that appellate court denies the request, this case moves to the U.S. Supreme Court. And depending on how long that takes, we could very well see a long delay in the implementation process.

GREENE: And of course, Richard, it would mean passion would be swirling around whatever the court decides there. How are the two sides reacting here to this ruling?

GONZALES: Well, imagine the words of Ken Paxton. He's the attorney general of Texas. He hailed the ruling as a crucial first step in reigning in President Obama's lawlessness. And then on the other side, I should mention that there are 12 states, the District of Columbia and 33 mayors across the country who are supporting the Obama administration. And they say the executive action would benefit them because workers who are here illegally would come out of the shadows and work and pay taxes. There's immigration advocates who are denouncing the judge's ruling as outside the legal mainstream. And they say this is only a temporary setback. But still, they are very discouraged. And they're very concerned that news of this ruling will cause some confusion and will prevent people from coming forward and applying for these authorizations for a work permit.

Then you've got the whole political aspect to this ruling. You know, it could have major implications for the Senate debate on funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Now, you remember Republicans in both houses are trying to stop the executive action by linking it to funding for Homeland Security. Democrats oppose that move. They've stymied the Republicans. So this fight over the president's executive action proceeds on dual tracks - one legal and one political.

GREENE: All right. We've been speaking to NPR's Richard Gonzales about a decision from a federal judge in Texas last night that temporarily blocked President Obama's executive action on immigration. Richard, thanks a lot.

GONZALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.