Federal Judge Andrew Hanen blocked President Obama’s immigration executive order Monday evening. The judge, a George W. Bush appointee, based in Brownsville, Texas, has long been regarded as a foe of immigrant rights. Hanen’s decision will deny millions of undocumented immigrants access to work permits and a path to citizenship. The injunction was put in place just hours before Obama’s executive order would have been implemented. The executive order would have protected around five million undocumented immigrants from facing deportation.
A coalition of 26 states, led by Texas, fought to halt Obama’s executive order, arguing that it violated the Constitution. They also contended that it would require increased investment in education, health care, and law enforcement. A dozen states, including California, filed a brief in support of President Obama’s order, arguing that it would serve the public interest and benefit the states. In addition, more than 20 police chiefs and sheriffs, filed a motion supporting Obama’s order. The law enforcement officials maintained that the new policy would improve public safety and increase cooperation between police officers and immigrant communities.
Judge Hanen wrote a 123-page ruling. At one point, he argued that:
There will be no effective way of putting the toothpaste back in the tube should the plaintiffs ultimately prevail.
While that seems like such a complex legal argument, the White House was undaunted. Arguing that the President’s actions were legal, the White House plans to appeal the judge’s ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) was thrilled with the decision. He proclaimed:
Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the president’s overreach in its tracks. We live in a nation governed by a system of checks and balances, and the president’s attempt to by-pass the will of the American people was successfully checked today.
Of course, the Texas Governor didn’t mention that fewer than 1 in 5 Americans want to overturn Obama’s immigration order while 73 percent favor immigration reform. Governor Abbott is apparently confusing the will of the people with the will of Greg Abbott.
Wade Henderson President and CEO of The Leadership Conference On Civil and Human Rights said, “Yesterday’s outrageous decision is far from the last word on the president’s executive action on immigration. As a long list of legal scholars have said, the president’s actions were well within the boundaries of his constitutional authority to establish immigration enforcement priorities while protecting thousands of immigrant parents who contribute to our nation every day from the threat of indiscriminate deportation. In temporarily delaying the implementation of the president’s executive action, the judge has substituted his own policy prerogatives while ignoring both the Constitution and longstanding precedent. This decision, like the lawsuit, simply has no legal merit and we’re confident that the administration will prevail as the case moves through the courts.”
Cristina Jimenez, Director of United We Dream, assailed the ruling, although she was not surprised by it. Noting that Hanen was a long time advocate for “harsh treatment of immigrant families”, she maintained confidence that the judge’s ruling would be overturned by a higher court.
The fight over immigration policy is far from finished. Judge Hanen’s decision merely reinforces the partisan rift that has developed over the last decade on immigration. Although George W. Bush was comparatively moderate on immigration issues, he appointed mostly hardcore conservative judges. Consequently, as those judge’s embrace the xenophobic madness of the Tea Party fringe, Bush’s legacy will be one that feeds the anti-immigrant fervor of the extreme right wing in American politics. While nearly three-fourths of Americans support immigration reform, the Republican Party has aligned with the 17 percent fringe who want to overturn President Obama’s common sense executive order.