A federal appeals court on Wednesday confirmed former President Barack Obama’s first instinct: that there is no legal reason for the administration to not enforce immigration law and allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, “was an overreach of presidential authority because Congress never gave the executive branch the power to grant mass reprieves to immigrants who are residing in the U.S. without authorization,” The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday night.
The court’s three-judge panel determined that DACA was “manifestly contrary” to U.S. immigration law.
It is such because Congress, under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, never authorized the executive branch to make up its own rules on who stays in the country and who goes, the judges wrote.
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DACA, implemented by the Obama-Biden administration in 2012, covered illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
It prevented them from being deported so long as certain conditions were met, such as remaining in school and not having a criminal record.
Obama implemented the program after claiming more than 20 times that Congress had not granted him such authority.
In its ruling, the appellate court upheld a district judge’s determination that Obama was right the first time.
“Declining to prosecute [or deport] does not transform presence deemed unlawful by Congress into lawful presence and confer eligibility for otherwise unavailable benefits based on that change,” the appellate court said.
“(H)ad Congress wished to assign that decision to an agency, it sure would have done so expressly. There is no ‘clear congressional authorization’ for the power that DHS [Department of Homeland Security] claims.”
The court’s decision affects about 600,000 illegals, many of whom are now adults, who are enrolled in DACA.
The ruling, however, did not consign them to immediate or even eventual deportation.
The appellate court sent the case back to the district court to address other legal issues. The status of the DACA recipients remains as is until those are resolved.
But the ruling, which upheld arguments made by nine red states led by Texas, against the Obama-Biden policy comes as Republicans have evidence that concern over illegal immigration is vital to voters.
The Center of Immigration Studies, which supports stricter immigration policies, noted that immigration ranked third behind the economy and crime as the issue most important to voters.
The poll, conducted by Reuters/Ipsos, presented voters with 13 topics to choose from. Immigration ranked third even though the poll was skewed heavily toward Democrats, who made up 47 percent of respondents, compared to only 36 percent who were Republicans.