A federal judge in Texas is expected to hear final arguments this week in a lawsuit brought by rank-and-file U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for an injunction to block President Obama’s deferred-deportation initiative for illegal immigrants.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who questioned the deportation order in a preliminary ruling, put off a decision in the matter on April 24, giving the ICE agents who brought the lawsuit against the Obama administration and lawyers for the government no later than Monday to file additional arguments.
“The court finds that [the Department of Homeland Security] does not have discretion to refuse to initiate removals proceedings” when the requirements for deportation under a federal statute are met, the judge wrote in a 38-page opinion. But he said he could not make a final ruling based on the arguments he already had heard and ordered lawyers on both sides to submit additional arguments.
Ten ICE agents, including Christopher L. Crane, a deportation agent in the agency’s Salt Lake City field office who also serves as president of the ICE Agents and Officers Union, are seeking an injunction to overturn Mr. Obama’s nondeportation policy.
They said the policy forces them to choose between enforcing the law and being reprimanded by superiors, or listening to their superiors and violating their own oaths of office.
The agents said Congress sought in 1996 to significantly reduce executive discretion in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, saying in a House resolution that “immigration law enforcement is as high a priority as other aspects of federal law enforcement, and illegal aliens do not have the right to remain in the United States undetected and unapprehended.”
The lawsuit specifically challenges a directive issued by Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton ordering the exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” in the deportation of illegal immigrants. The lawsuit said the Obama administration lacked the legal authority to arbitrarily halt deportations. It said the June 2012 directive instructs ICE agents to refrain from placing certain aliens now unlawfully in the United States into removal proceedings, and to take action to facilitate the granting of deferred deportation to those unlawfully in this country.
According to the lawsuit, the requirements illegal immigrants must meet to avoid deportation are that they came to the U.S. before turning 16; that they have continuously lived in this country for a least five years; that they are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a General Education Development certificate or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military; that they have not have been convicted of a felony or pose a threat to national security or public safety; and that are not older than 30.
The lawsuit said the directive “commands ICE officers to violate federal law to violate their oaths to uphold and support federal law unconstitutionally usurps and encroaches upon the legislative powers of Congress and violates the obligation of the executive branch to faithfully execute the law,” as required by the Constitution.