On February 16th, a federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, entered an order prohibiting enforcement of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.  Intended to go into effect February 18th, the program grants work authorization, Social Security eligibility, and eligibility for federal and state benefits to virtually all aliens who have been in the U.S. since 2010, had a baby in this country, and have not committed felonies.  Under the current law, undocumented-immigrant parents of U.S. citizens are required to wait until the child turns 21, and then must leave the country for 10 years before applying for a change of immigration status on account of that child.

The Obama administration announced it will suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA and vowed to appeal the temporary injunction.  The Obama administration argued that DAPA is a routine application of “prosecutorial discretion” – the authority of executive officials to set priorities for enforcement of the law and to refrain from enforcement in cases where the public interest is least urgent. 

The district court said that the Obama administration failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires a period of longer notification and comment period before the White House may take action.  The district court further stated that prosecutorial discretion is limited to non-enforcement and does not entitle the executive branch to grant affirmative benefits such as work permits and welfare without statutory authority and notice-and-comment rule-making.