President Obama and the Department of Justice face another legal hurdle in moving forward with immigration reform as a federal appeals court upheld an injunction to prevent the implementation of executive orders announced late last year. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, New Orleans ruled on the injunction, which was imposed by Judge Andrew Hanen, a federal judge in Texas who issued the edict in February.
At the appeals level, two of the three judges on the court panel in New Orleans, agreed state attorneys for Texas had demonstrated it would incur significant costs to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who would gain legal status under the president’s executive action. In their 70-page opinion, Judge Jerry Smith and Jennifer Elrod also dismissed the administration’s argument that policy decision on immigration law enforcement was out of the purview of the courts.
In his dissent, Judge Stephen Higginson stated the Obama Administration was “adhering to the law, not derogating from it.”
The New York Times frames the decision as one where, “The appeals court found that Texas and the other states had sufficient legal grounds to bring the lawsuit and that the administration had not shown that it would be harmed if the injunction remained in place and the programs were further delayed.”
While the appeals court’s refusal to lift the injunction is likely frustrating to immigration advocates who’ve battled so long and so hard for reform, the decision was not unexpected. Commentators noted the court in New Orleans would likely maintain the injunction, and would force administration attorneys to up their game with an ultimate appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Still, the situation might not be as bleak as it first appears, according to Washington University immigration law professor Stephen Legomsky. Legomsky is the former top lawyer at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. In its story on the ruling, the New York Times quotes the professor’s reaction to the judges’ statements as, “a delay would cause no irreparable harm.” What’s more, Legomsky goes further to say the injunction could be thrown out as the panel of judges making the ultimate decision “could well agree with the government’s position and reverse Judge Hanen’s injunction.”