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Practice Note
 
Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Obama’s Immigration Executive Action

Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Obama’s Immigration Executive Action

Shortly before the Christmas holiday began, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell dismissed a challenge brought by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and backed by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman. Howell ruled that Arpaio had not shown the direct harm from Obama’s actions needed to institute a lawsuit in the federal courts.

“The role of the Judiciary is to resolve cases and controversies properly brought by parties with a concrete and particularized injury — not to engage in policymaking better left to the political branches,” Howell wrote in an opinion filed Tuesday night. “The plaintiff’s case raises important questions regarding the impact of illegal immigration on this Nation, but the questions amount to generalized grievances which are not proper for the Judiciary to address.”

The ruling came just one day after Klayman, Arpaio’s lawyer, presented a colorful argument laced with political barbs at a hearing that extended to more than an hour. During the session, Howell — an Obama appointee — shot several quizzical looks at the well-known lawyer and made a series of pointed remarks suggesting she was highly skeptical of his arguments.

The lawsuit challenged a policy Obama implemented in 2012 deferring deportation of individuals brought to the U.S. illegally as children, as well as two moves the administration announced last month: expanding that program and instituting a broader deferred deportation program for illegal-immigrant parents of U.S. citizens. Both programs will soon carry the possibility of three-year reprieves from deportation, along with work permits.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz hailed the judge’s ruling.

Arpaio and Klayman immediately appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

In her 33-page ruling Tuesday, Howell concluded that Arpaio’s suit failed on several grounds, including showing a “particularized” harm and demonstrating that the judge had the power to redress whatever problems Obama’s policy changes were creating for the sheriff. Howell said Arpaio’s central argument — that his county was incurring greater costs due to the Obama immigration actions — might well be flawed.

“Contrary to the plaintiff’s assertion that a consequence of the challenged programs will be an increase in illegal conduct by undocumented immigrants and an increase in costs to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office, these programs may have the opposite effect,” the judge wrote.

The deferred action programs are designed to incorporate the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement priorities “and better focus federal enforcement on removing undocumented immigrants committing felonies and serious misdemeanor crimes,” she wrote. “Since the undocumented immigrants engaging in criminal activity are the cause of the injuries complained about by the plaintiff, the more focused federal effort to remove these individuals may end up helping, rather than exacerbating the harm to, the plaintiff.”

Howell also said it was difficult to predict the actions of immigrants and to establish the connection between those actions and Obama’s immigration policy changes.

“The motivation for any individual to come to the United States (or, once present here, to commit a crime in Maricopa County), does not rest solely upon the challenged deferred action programs. Such decisions are complicated and multi-faceted, involving both national and international factors,” the judge wrote.

Howell accepted the core of the Obama administration arguments for the legality of the executive actions: that they fall within the ambit of prosecutorial discretion.

“Although the challenged deferred action programs represent a large class-based program, such breadth does not push the programs over the line from the faithful execution of the law to the unconstitutional rewriting of the law for the following reason: The programs still retain provisions for meaningful case-by-case review,” she wrote. “This case-by-case decisionmaking reinforces the conclusion that the challenged programs amount only to the valid exercise of prosecutorial discretion and reflect the reality that ‘an agency decision not to enforce often involves a complicated balancing of a number of factors which are peculiarly within its expertise.'”

Excerpt from article by DOUG MATACONIS • TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2014 •


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