Judge temporarily halts Obama’s executive actions on immigration

A federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction late Monday night to halt President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The ruling by U.S. District Judge…

President Barack Obama announced executive actions on immigration during a nationally televised address from the White House on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Bourg, Pool)

A federal judge in Texas granted a preliminary injunction late Monday night to halt President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen temporarily blocks the implementation of Obama’s executive actions announced in November, which would protect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

SEE ALSO: Immigrants, advocacy groups prepare for Obama’s immigration programs

Those actions include a new program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. The program, which was set to go into effect in May, would give temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

The president’s actions also include the expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows undocumented youth to stay in the United States and work. The federal government was set to begin accepting applications for the expanded DACA program on Wednesday.

In his decision, Hanen makes it clear that “this is not the end of the inquiry.”

“In fact, in this case, it is really the tip of the iceberg,” he continued. “Obviously, this injunction (as long as it is in place) will prevent the immediate provisions of benefits and privileges to millions of individuals who might otherwise be eligible for them in the next several months under DAPA and the extended-DACA.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott filed the lawsuit challenging Obama in December, saying the president overstepped his authority when he announced his executive actions on immigration. Abbott hailed the judge’s decision Monday night.

Greb Abbot filed a lawsuit challenging Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke to reporters in December about the lawsuit he filed challenging Obama’s executive actions on immigration. (Photo credit: Abbott’s office)

“President Obama abdicated his responsibility to uphold the United States Constitution when he attempted to circumvent the laws passed by Congress via executive fiat, and Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the President’s overreach in its tracks,” Abbott said in a statement.

“We live in a nation governed by a system of checks and balances, and the President’s attempt to by-pass the will of the American people was successfully checked today,” he continued. “The District Court’s ruling is very clear—it prevents the President from implementing the policies in ‘any and all aspects.’”

Abbot was serving as the Texas attorney general when he first filed the lawsuit on behalf of Texas and 16 other states. The number of states that have joined has since grown to 26.

SEE ALSO: List of states suing Obama over his immigration actions grows

Meanwhile, several immigrant rights groups that authored amicus briefs opposing the request for preliminary injunction reacted to the news Monday night.

The National Immigration Law Center called the judge’s decision “a bump in the road.” In a statement, the group said the decision “overlooked sound legal reasoning and precedent, and, if not reversed, threatens to keep millions of aspiring Americans from coming forward to apply for much-needed reprieves from deportation and work authorization.”

“Fortunately, this decision represents only a temporary setback,” stated Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We urge the Department of Justice to act swiftly to ask the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse this court’s decision to block the immigration initiatives. Failure to do so will confuse potentially eligible immigrants and undermine the success of these initiatives.”

In his decision, the judge also said there’s no indication that individuals who qualify for DAPA or the extended DACA “will otherwise be removed or prosecuted.” But he said there may be “dire consequences” for those who apply for DAPA if the program “is later found to be illegal or unconstitutional.”

“The DHS—whether under this administration or the next—will then have all pertinent identification for these immigrants and could deport them,” Hanen stated.

Obama’s executive action would benefit those born in Mexico more than any other country of origin group.

Dozens gathered to rally in support of President Obama’s executive action on immigration near the White House on Nov. 21, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Still, as of Monday night, immigration advocacy groups insisted that immigrants should not be afraid to apply. They noted that the judge’s decision is not permanent and that the higher courts could still reject the lawsuit.

“We are confident that the higher courts will reject this lawsuit since it has no legal merit and only wastes taxpayer dollars [and] attack immigrant youth, workers [and] families,” United We Dream stated on its website.

United We Dream also asked immigrants to not be worried and made it clear that the judge’s decision “only delays the new executive actions announced in 2014” and not the DACA program announced in 2012. In addition, the group urged qualified immigrants to apply for DAPA and expanded DACA once the application process begins.

“This decision only delays the application process,” United We Dream stated, adding that there are several steps immigrants can take now to prepare to apply for the immigration programs.

SEE ALSO: Obama to immigration critics: Think about the ‘human consequences’