President Obama’s new deportation amnesty will impose “billions of dollars in costs” on states, they told a federal court this week — including more than $130 for each Texas driver’s license issued to illegal immigrants under the policy.
More than 1,100 pages of documents submitted by Texas and two dozen other states suing to stop the amnesty detail the costs in depth, and include sworn affidavits from state officials, federal immigration officers and others arguing that the amnesty will increase illegal immigration, leaving the states with even bigger burdens.
Wisconsin said the illegal immigrants granted amnesty would be eligible to apply for concealed weapons permits at a cost to state taxpayers. Indiana said it will end up paying unemployment benefits to the illegal immigrants. And in Texas, officials said they’ll have to hire more than 100 new employees to process hundreds of thousands of driver’s license applications, with state taxpayers shelling out more than $130 per applicant.
“The states will lose money,” Texas, which is leading the lawsuit, told Judge Andrew Hanen in legal papers.
Judge Hanen, who sits in Brownsville, Texas, will hear oral arguments in the case Thursday, with the fate of Mr. Obama’s most ambitious executive action to date riding on the outcome.
The case turns on two key factors: first, whether Texas and the 24 other states that have joined the lawsuit can show they or their residents stand to suffer from the president’s policies; and second, whether Mr. Obama’s actions go beyond case-by-case discretion and tread on Congress’ power to write laws and set policy.
Texas and its fellow states argue the licenses and other benefits prove they will suffer, which means they have “standing” to sue in court.
They also painted a compelling picture of the program as a rubber-stamp rather than the careful case-by-case decisions the Obama administration claims.
Texas says a 95 percent approval rate for applicants for the existing amnesty for so-called Dreamers shows the program is a rubber stamp. The state even filed an affidavit to that effect from Kenneth Palinkas, head of the labor union of officers who process the applications.
“Leadership has intentionally stopped proper screening and enforcement and, in so doing, it has guaranteed that applications will be rubber-stamped for approval, a practice that virtually guarantees widespread fraud and places public safety at risk,” Mr. Palinkas said.
Texas also says the administration has repeatedly hurt its own case with the way it’s gone about attacking states that have cracked down on illegal immigration, while trying to make its own amnesty programs as generous as possible.
In one instance, the administration argues that states don’t have to issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants — thus saying there’s no financial burden to states from the amnesty. But the administration is currently arguing in another case out of Arizona that states must issue driver’s licenses to those granted the amnesty and work permits.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with the administration, meaning that all of the states under its jurisdiction, including three of the plaintiff states in the Texas case, do not have a choice.
In another example, Texas submitted the declaration of a labor economist who said that because the illegal immigrants would become legal workers but still aren’t eligible for Obamacare, they are cheaper to hire for some businesses. Texas said that’s exactly the kind of “economic harm” that courts are allowed to step in and fight.
The Obama administration told the court that judges don’t have the power to stop the president’s use of discretion.
Administration lawyers and their defenders also point to previous uses by other presidents of “deferred action” — the power Obama lawyers cite in their defense — as evidence what they are doing isn’t out of the ordinary.
“The state lawsuit is about politics, not policy or the constitutionality of the executive actions,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, which has filed briefs in the case defending the policy. “Ultimately, we — along with scores of legal experts — believe the courts will prove that President Obama’s immigration policy is legally sound.”
Meanwhile, the Cato Institute has filed briefs challenging the program.
Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow for constitutional studies at Cato, said the case should test just how broadly states are able to challenge federal laws on behalf of their residents. Mr. Shapiro said given gridlock and the penchant for presidents to act on their own, the case could have a huge impact.
“All of this is pretty new in the sense that the administration is coming up with creative ways of governing without Congress,” he said.
Cato’s involvement is intriguing because, as a libertarian-leaning think tank, it generally agrees with legalizing illegal immigrants. But Mr. Shapiro said sometimes “something can be good policy yet bad law.”
Advocates are already preparing for the government to accept applications. A first round, for those brought to the U.S. as children, will begin by Feb. 20. A second round, for illegal immigrant parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, will follow 90 days later.
Republicans in Congress, however, are rushing their own end-of-February deadline to try to halt the program. The House this week will debate legislation that would strip funding for the amnesty, halting it in its tracks.
But with Mr. Obama holding veto power, it’s more likely his policy gets decided in the courts, and the Texas case is one of several where the president’s amnesty is under scrutiny.
Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio sued in federal court in Washington, D.C. A judge there has already tossed his case, arguing he didn’t prove any specific harm. He has appealed that ruling.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Pennsylvania found the amnesty unconstitutional, saying it intruded on Congress’ lawmaker powers. But that ruling came in a specific case of an illegal immigrant whom the government charged with illegally reentering the U.S. after having been deported. That judge has not invalidated the amnesty, but is trying to decide what to do with the illegal immigrant.
The Pennsylvania case is slated for oral arguments next week.