Anti-immigrant activists and organizations have attempted for years to use litigation in order to achieve their bigoted policy goals. When President Obama announced in November he would use his legal authority to provide relief from deportation for about 4 million immigrants, a lawsuit challenging the move seemed inevitable. Indeed, state governors and attorneys general from several states — now 25 states — filed a lawsuit in early December to block the president’s action. Thursday, Jan. 15, a federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, will hold a hearing before considering the states’ request for a preliminary injunction to immediately halt the President’s policy changes.
The Beltway organizations that comprise much of the organized anti-immigrant movement — and continue to stand in the way of any meaningful and humane immigration reform — will have their eyes on Brownsville. While one can only speculate as to how the court will rule at this moment, here are five things to know about the latest legal challenge to President Obama’s actions:
Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott has sued the federal government on a litany of issues over which the far-Right has manufactured outrage.
This includes Environmental Protection Agency regulations and the Affordable Care Act. Abbott is the state’s outgoing attorney general. The Houston Chronicle reports the current lawsuit over Obama’s immigration actions “marks the 31st time Abbott has sued the federal government since 2009.” His latest challenge to Obama’s announcement appears to be more of the same.
Kris Kobach appears to be one of the primary authors of the lawsuit.
Kobach, the virulently anti-immigrant lawyer and Kansas secretary of state, is well-known in nativist circles as the author Arizona’s SB 1070 and being of counsel with the anti-immigrant Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). A Washington Post article published shortly after the President’s announcement noted Kobach was already drafting a lawsuit and that Texas was interested in being a plaintiff. On December 3, Kobach revealed that he was involved in drafting a lawsuit and said to “watch the news in the next month or so and you’ll see the cases being filed […] the pieces are being put into place to bring litigation against the Obama administration in various courts around the country.”
The presiding judge is expected to rule in the states’ favor.
In filing their lawsuit in Brownsville, there was a high probability Judge Andrew Hanen would oversee the case. This fact was surely not lost on the plaintiffs, who likely were aware of Hanen’s previous statements deriding the Department of Homeland Security and border security practices. News that the case would be heard in Hanen’s court led The Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan to declare, “the states challenging President Obama’s deportation amnesty have already won the first round in court.”
Several state attorneys general do not approve of the lawsuit.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, for example, described the lawsuit as “governor-driven litigation which involves policy and drags us into litigation we might not initiate on our own.” Hood joined 16 other attorneys general in signing a letter earlier this month urging Congress to enact more permanent immigration reforms. Seven of the signees hail from one of the 25 states listed as plaintiffs in the Texas-led lawsuit.
The lawsuit has the support of other nativist lawmakers and organizations.
In mid-December, 27 members of Congress signed an amicus curiae brief supporting the states, which was submitted by the far-right American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Most members signing the brief are members of the anti-immigrant Immigration Reform Caucus. ACLJ has previously worked with IRLI to support Arizona’s SB 1070.
Additionally, a similar lawsuit — filed by the staunchly anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio just hours after President Obama’s announcement — has already been dismissed.
However Judge Hanen decides to proceed, the matter is far from settled. Despite the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel and more than 130 legal experts asserting that President Obama is acting well within his legal authority, nativist litigators are sure to persist in their efforts. As such, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could be needed to settle manner.
These states and their anti-immigrant allies can, and most likely will, continue working to malign immigrants and litigate their way toward deporting 11 million people. However, these states’ time would be better spent working with their members of Congress to enact meaningful immigration reforms and reduce the possibility of frivolous legal battles in the future.