A federal judge on Monday halted portions of President Obama's executive actions shielding more than 4 million immigrants in the country illegally from deportation. The administration has pledged to appeal. When it does, the courts should act with all due speed to reinstate the president's policies.
The judge's injunction adds yet another sideshow to the nation's long-running debate over immigration reform. Although the step was taken in a federal lawsuit brought by 26 states, it is Congress that has brought us to this pass by failing to adopt reasonable, bipartisan immigration reform. In its absence, the president announced in November 2014 that he would use his "prosecutorial discretion" to expand eligibility for the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and offer similar protections for immigrants under the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.
Outraged House Republicans are trying to block those executive actions through language included in a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which runs out of money Feb. 27. That misguided legislation is stalled in the Senate, and even were it to pass, Obama has said he would veto it. Rather than create another showdown with the White House, Congress ought to pass a clean Homeland Security bill that does not seek to nullify the executive actions. While Congress is at it, it should tackle comprehensive immigration reform. But that, apparently, is expecting too much.
Texas, meanwhile, is leading the states' legal challenge to the executive actions. The states accuse the president of overstepping the limits of his office by effectively creating new immigration law (which is the job of Congress). They also argue that the administration adopted its new rules without following required procedures for review and public discussion. In a 123-page memo explaining his injunction, Judge Andrew S. Hanen said he found sufficient validity to some of the states' arguments to justify halting the president's new deferral efforts. Homeland Security officials announced they would postpone accepting applications from immigrants living in the country illegally.
But Hanen's argument is unconvincing. He criticized Obama's immigration enforcement policies in a previous, unrelated case, and he made it clear in this case that he is receptive to the claim that the government failed to follow proper regulatory procedures. The Obama administration counters persuasively — to us, if not to Hanen — that it acted properly and within its legal authority.
Ultimately, this is a partisan lawsuit and a partisan injunction, neither of which should stand.