A federal judge has declared President Obama’s immigration reform unconstitutional. Judge Arthur Schwab of the Western District of Pennsylvania is the first to make a formal ruling on the legality of the immigration plan announced by Obama on Nov. 20.
Obama’s proposed executive action would grant amnesty to 4.7 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, meaning they could obtain work permits and continue to live here without fear of deportation. This figure of nearly 5 million represents less than half of the estimated 12 million illegal aliens in this country. Illegal immigrants that will benefit from Obama’s action fall into two categories: those that have lived in the United States for a consecutive five years and are parents of one or more legal permanent residents, and immigrants that arrived in the United States as children before 2010.
The immigration plan has infuriated many conservatives and received criticism from politicians across the nation. A coalition of 17 states has come together in order to file a lawsuit against the president’s executive order. Texas governor Greg Abbott is leading the legal action and is joined by the state governments of Montana, Idaho, Maine, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The House of Representatives has also passed a bill aimed at stalling Obama’s executive action.
The declaration by Judge Schwab that Obama’s plan for immigration reform is unconstitutional has no immediate impact on the president’s executive action. Schwab brought up his opinions on the reform during a criminal case. The defendant was Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, a 42-year-old undocumented Honduran immigrant who was charged with unlawful re-entry after being arrested for drunk driving. The Justice Department said that the Pennsylvania court had no basis to comment on the constitutionality of Obama’s immigration reform because it did not apply to the case at hand.
Those in favor of Obama’s immigration reform will be the first to point out that Schwab was appointed by George W. Bush. In 2006, the conservative president signed the Secure Fence Act, which pretty well summed up his stance on illegal immigration.
Although Schwab’s ruling might have been uncalled for and it will not directly affect the president’s executive action, it will certainly serve as more ammunition for the critics who are trying to shoot the action down. Schwab asserted that Obama’s executive action violates the separation of powers that is a provision of the United States Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional. The federal judge also alluded to a statement that Obama made months ago when he said that he was only taking administrative action because the Republicans in Congress kept stalling discussions on immigration and refusing to vote on the reform legislation. Schwab argued that “Congressional inaction does not endow legislative power with the Executive.”
Immigration has always been a touchy subject because America was founded by immigrants. The declaration by a conservative federal judge that a liberal president’s immigration reform is unconstitutional is yet another example of the bipartisan government’s failure to find common ground on this issue.
Opinion by Dac Collins
Photo by Jonathan McIntosh – Flickr License