Texas Judge Halts Two Immigration Programs

Two deferred action immigration programs are on hold after a federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction. Texas v. United States (S.D. Tex. 2015).

The Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs, both announced on November 20, 2014, were part of a large-scale executive action by President Obama. DAPA would delay deportation for persons without lawful status who lived in the United States since January 1, 2010, had one or more children, and met other criteria. DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country before turning 16 and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. Expanded DACA—the measure enjoined by the Texas court—would have included immigrants who entered the country before 2010 and otherwise made the law more inclusive.

Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas determined that executive action was not a legal means of carrying the programs into effect, as they were substantive in nature and therefore required adherence to the notice-and-comment rulemaking process of the country’s Administrative Procedure Act.

Judge Hanen declined to weigh in on whether the two programs violated the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 or the U.S. Constitution.

“The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and even other courts had said that our actions are well within our legal authority,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. “We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do.”

Judge Hanen’s injunction does not affect the existing DACA program, which was announced in June 2012.

Officials in the Department of Justice will seek an emergency stay to set aside Judge Hanen’s injunction.