President Obama’s opponents spend a lot of time and money suing him for executive actions taken on immigration reform. However, the courts have quashed many of those lawsuits.
The most infamous of the lawsuits against Obama was the case Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed, ostensibly seeking to force the Administration to obey the Constitution. Although the court agreed the case did raise important questions relating to how illegal immigration affected the nation, those questions were not for the court to address.
U.S. District Judge Howell indicated the role of the courts is not to participate in policymaking, leaving that to the legislative and executive branches of government. That aside, a significant number of scholars, along with the Department of Justice (DOJ), have stated on many occasions that Obama’s executive actions are both legal and lawful. In court, Arpaio’s attorney suggested the President’s executive actions were not merely policy, but rather the creation of new law, which is forbidden under the Constitution.
What is baffling about the legal challenges is that neither of the president’s actions – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or the executive directive on immigration – grant legal status to people who do not have it or create a new law. The actions endeavor to refocus immigration enforcement on those posing a threat to public safety by deferring deportation. In theory, but evidently not in reality, the deferral programs should provide the White House with the time and the motivation to achieve more substantial immigration reform.
DOJ attorney Kathleen Hartnett weighed in on the court case, suggesting it seemed to raise a political dispute and not a legal claim that the courts could address. Despite Arpaio’s loss and the nationwide force of opinion not being on his side, he plans to appeal the decision. Polls still clearly indicate high support for immigration reform.
According to political pundits the chances that the other class action lawsuit launched by attorney generals and governors in 24 red states will go down in flames are also good, for similar reasons as cited in the Arpaio case. The court has taken under consideration the fact that executive directives are not new rules, but rather orders to enforce existing ones.
Also crucial to a decision for the defendant is that the plaintiffs are suggesting the tidal wave of children coming across the border is the result of Obama’s executive directives – an extremely hard allegation to prove, given that executive directives are often based on conflicting information. Again, these matters are typically considered to be policy decisions, not legislative ones.