In another legal setback for the Obama Administration, a federal appeals court panel has refused to lift an injunction against the President's executive actions on immigration, leaving on hold plans that would allow some 4-5 million people in the U.S. illegally to stay and avoid deportation.
“The separation of powers and checks and balances remain the law of the land, and this decision is a victory for those committed to preserving the rule of law in America,” said Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of the state of Texas, who has led the legal charge against the President's immigration changes.
The ruling came from a three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which ruled 2-1 that the legal proceedings should continue before the President's immigration plans are implemented.
"The United States has not demonstrated that it “will be irreparably injured absent a stay,"" the court's majority wrote, siding with 26 states which have sued to block the immigration changes laid out by the President last November.
"In summary, the United States has not made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits," the ruling by Fifth Circuit judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod stated.
Back on March 12, the Obama Administration had asked the Fifth Circuit to end the injunction, in order to allow the new immigration plans to go forward; a federal judge had delayed those plans with an injunction issued on February 17.
In a dissent, Judge Stephen Higginson labeled the lawsuit "political" and said the states simply do not have the power to challenge how the federal government deals with immigration.
"I would hold that the underlying issue presented to us — the order in
which non-citizens without documentation must be removed from the United States — must be decided, presently is being decided, and always has been decided, by the federal political branches," Higginson wrote.
It was not immediately clear if the Justice Department would appeal.
The Obama Administration would have two options on appeal on the issue of trying to gain a "stay" on the injunction against the President's executive actions - either to the full Fifth Circuit, or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This is a separate legal battle over the main issue, which is where 26 states charge the President has overstepped his constitutional powers by moving ahead with these immigration actions, which would allow many in the U.S. illegally to stay for several years without fear of being deported.
"The true test will be on the merits of the case," said Cornell University Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr.
"That could be a few years down the road, after a trial," he added.
That kind of time line would not be good news for President Obama, as his time in office runs out in less than two years.
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