A Tuesday, May 26, 2015, decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an injunction on implementation of the Obama Administration’s expanded Deferred Action Program, part of the President’s Executive Action on immigration announced in November 2014. The Deferred Action portion of the President’s policy is designed to allow millions of individuals residing in the United States illegally to remain, not only without the threat of deportation, but also with the added ability to obtain work authorization and travel abroad. Tuesday’s court decision arises from a December 2014 challenge of the Executive Action by Texas and 25 additional states brought at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, located in Brownsville. The plaintiffs have challenged the Obama Administration’s authority to execute the Executive Action directives, which include expanding deferred action with employment authorization and the ability to travel abroad and return to the United States (by having access to a travel document, Advance Parole) to include parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and to include individuals who have resided in the United States for five years or longer. The Federal action seeks not only to strike down the Executive Action as unconstitutional, but injunctive relief by way of preventing implementation of the program while the suit is being decided. In February 2015, the Federal Court Judge granted the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, barring roll out of the expanded program until the case is resolved. The Administration then made an emergency request to lift that ruling.
Tuesday’s 2-1 panel decision by the appeals court upheld the Federal District Court ruling that the November 2014 directive must be placed on hold while the constitutional issues of the case are reviewed by the District Court Judge. The appeals court also denied the Administration’s request that the bar on implementation only apply within the 26 states that brought the suit. In the opinion, the court discussed issues including the burden to the states that would have to issue driver’s licenses to the immigrants, the court’s authority to review a policy decision by the President, and the impact of a Deferred Action program that deprioritizes a group of illegal immigrants versus one that affirmatively grants them benefits eligibility. The Obama Administration can continue to fight to have the injunction lifted at the appeals court and can also bring the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.