DHS Policies Continue to Reverberate Across the Nation

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Attorneys watching legal proceedings around President Obama’s 2014 executive order on immigration are busy dissecting the case as it has played out in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. While the case may soon be heard in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, rulings as they have come down thus far already carry major implications.

One major issue in the case centers on the legal concept of “standing.” In very simplistic terms, the concept conveys an acknowledgement of each party’s involvement or interest around the case. Involvement can include both direct as well as indirect parties.

The case, Crane v. Johnson, was born as a direct challenge for the president’s executive action he undertook just a week before the last Thanksgiving holiday. In April, Judge Andrew Hanen and the other two judges on the panel issued an injunction that has brought a standstill to expansion efforts around the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs as well as the newly introduced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA).

In their examination of the case, which is laid out in an article on the American Progress site, Marshall Fitz and Stephen Legomsky look at arguments and rulings. Fitz is the Center for American Progress vice president for immigration policy. Legomsky teaches at the Washington University School of Law and is also the former chief counsel of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In their article, Fritz and Legomsky argue that DACA and DAPA are in no danger of disappearing from the immigration landscape. However, the authors say, the judges’ ruling on states’ lack of standing in bringing the case is absolutely noteworthy.

Where the state of Mississippi is concerned, Fritz and Legomsky write, it’s worth noting that the 5th Circuit judges ruled the state lacked standing to challenge DACA due to its inability to “demonstrate that DACA was actually costing the state any money.” Significantly, the state’s claim of expense didn’t separate DACA from unauthorized immigration. Additionally, the case brought by Mississippi attorneys only considered costs to the state. This, the judges ruled, conveyed an imbalanced picture as the numbers didn’t include fiscal benefits the state reaped due to federal policies.

Where the state of Texas is concerned, write the authors, attorneys argued that those who directly benefit from the deferred action programs are eligible for driver’s licenses. Because the license costs are partially subsidized by state taxpayers, the federal policies caused a direct out-of-pocket expense to the state, Texas attorneys argued.

Although Texas presented a stronger legal argument that Mississippi attorneys, Fritz and Legomsky say, the state’s numbers simply don’t add up. While an official with the Driver License Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety declared a cost of “millions of dollars” to grant licenses to deferred action recipients, the authors say the state’s own budget numbers suggests “the state actually generates a profit by processing license applications.”

Secondly, the authors argue, the establishment of standings entails much more than demonstrating a “net negative fiscal impact on the state.” What’s more, they say, the Texas approach to the case opens the door for the state to “challenge every single approval made by USCIS of any immigration application—including asylum—that could make a person eligible for state benefits.

As court proceedings around the federal mandates continue to make their way through the legal system, attorneys and other interested parties will keep their eye on rulings and work to understand potential implications.

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