U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Date Set for Arguments in Obama Immigration Case

The Fifth Circuit is set to hear arguments next month in the lawsuit over President Obama's executive actions on immigration, the court has announced. Each side will be given an hour for their arguments which will take place April 17th, in New Orleans.

The case, Texas v. United States, challenged whether the president had the power to prioritize, and deprioritize, immigration enforcement. Several states, lead by Texas, sued the U.S. in order to halt Obama's immigration plan, winning in district court. The arguments scheduled for mid-April will focus on whether the federal government should be prevented from enacting its immigration plans while the case is appealed.

The Heart of the Matter

Obama's immigration plan, set in action through an executive order, seeks to selectively enforce existing immigration laws, increasing focus on undocumented immigrants with criminal records and less on families and children. Undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children would have their deportation reconsidered, as would parents whose children were U.S. citizens. The plan, which is estimated to effect around five million immigrants, came after immigration reform had stalled once again, in Congress.

Texas and other states alleged that the immigration executive order would place significant burdens on their states and violated the Take Care Clause of the Constitution, which requires the president to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." The administration had argued that immigration has long been the prerogative of the federal government, not states. Their argument wasn't enough to convince Judge Andrew Hanen, in the Southern District of Texas, who ruled in favor of the states and ordered the program halted the day before it was set to begin.

What to do While Awaiting Appeal?

The issue before the Fifth Circuit isn't the correctness of Judge Hanen's ruling, but what to do while the ruling is appealed. The justice department seeks a stay of the ruling, allowing it to go ahead and implement the plan -- deferring the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants until a higher court has decided the issue.

Stays are typically issued pending appeal where there would be harm absent a stay. The states argue that they would be harmed by financial burdens should the plan go ahead; the federal government contends that halting the plan disrupts the immigration status of thousands and runs contrary to the public interest. It will be up to the Fifth to decide who makes the better case.

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