A federal judge dismissed immigration agents’ lawsuit trying to overturn the administration’s non-deportation policies, arguing the court didn’t have jurisdiction because it was a personnel matter subject to collective bargaining.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and officers had argued that federal law requires them to arrest any illegal immigrants they encounter, disputing President Obama’s guidance that told them only to arrest those illegal immigrants who appear to have serious criminal records.
District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that in his reading, the agents were right about the law — but he said the court didn’t have jurisdiction because the Civil Service Reform Act makes the dispute an employment matter.
“Plaintiffs’ injury is based on being compelled to violate a federal statute upon pain of adverse employment action,” Judge O’Connor write in a seven-page order dismissing the case.
Judge O’Connor said that because the penalty for refusing to follow the administration’s policy is that agents would be disciplined, the right avenue for fighting it is the regular method Congress has provided for resolving employment disputes.
The agents and officers had sued Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano over policies she issued over the last few years ordering ICE employees not to arrest most rank-and-file illegal immigrants.
Instead, Mr. Obama and Ms. Napolitano say they’ve tried to limit deportations to immigrants with serious criminal records, or who match other priorities such as having only recently crossed the border or having repeatedly violated immigration laws.
The judge’s decision comes as Congress is considering how to rewrite immigration laws.
The Senate has already passed a bill that would grant most illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, while promising stiffer security in the future. But opponents argue the bill gives too much discretion to the Homeland Security secretary over how to enforce the new laws.