President Obama's latest and boldest attempt to use his executive powers to grant quasi-legal status to illegal immigrants ran into a major roadblock yesterday as a federal judge in Texas barred the administration from going forward with plans for a major expansion of that drive, Politico reports. The White House said today that the Justice Department will appeal the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen. Acting in a lawsuit brought by 26 states, Hanen ruled that Obama lacked authority to carry out much of the initiative he announced in November to allow up to five million more illegal immigrants to obtain work permits and reprieves from deportation.
Obama and his aides have argued that the new drive was legally justified as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, since immigration authorities at the Department of Homeland Security lack the funding to deport more than a few percent of the 12 million people estimated to be in the U.S. illegally. Hanen, an appointee of President George W. Bush, rejected that position. The Department of Homeland Security “does have discretion in the manner in which it chooses to fulfill the expressed will of Congress. It cannot, however, enact a program in which it not only ignores the dictates of Congress, but actively acts to thwart them,” Hanen wrote. “DHS Secretary [Jeh Johnson] is not just rewriting the laws; he is creating them from scratch.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Hanen's decision was at odds with Supreme Court precedents and laws giving immigration officials broad discretion in deciding whom to deport.