The Corner

Judge Likely to Block Obama Deportation Policy

A federal judge on Wednesday indicated that a court challenge against the Obama administration’s “deferred action” deportation policy is likely to succeed, though he postponed a final ruling on the case until next month.

“The court finds that DHS does not have discretion to refuse to initiate removal proceedings,” against illegal immigrants who meet the federal requirements for deportation, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor said in a 38-page preliminary decision. O’Connor deferred a final ruling on the case, and asked both parties in the case to file additional arguments by May 6.

A group of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents is seeking an injunction against a June 2012 policy directive from Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, which granted “deferred action” status to illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements. The plaintiffs claim the policy “commands ICE officers to violate federal law” by releasing illegal immigrants who have been arrested on criminal charges. I wrote about the case last week:

The ICE agents claim that the directive “violates the obligation of the executive branch to faithfully execute the law,” which mandates that if immigration officers find that a detainee is in the country illegally, that individual “shall be detained” for removal proceedings. The Obama administration, however, is arguing that the word “shall,” in this instance, actually means “may.” The resulting enforcement breakdown has led officials to release dangerous criminals without charge. One of the most “shocking” examples of this, notes Kris Kobach, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, is the case of ICE agent Samuel Martin.

On July 17, 2012, an illegal immigrant who had been detained on a domestic-assault charge in El Paso, Texas, allegedly assaulted Martin and a colleague — a federal felony charge — as they tried to place the immigrant in a vehicle. When Martin, who would later require shoulder surgery as a result of the incident, sought to initiate removal proceedings against the immigrant, his ICE supervisors told him to release the detainee without charge. According to the plaintiff’s court filing, the agents protested, but were told that “it was a management decision, based on the President’s new immigration policies.” ICE supervisors, with an eye to possible disciplinary action, subsequently questioned the agents.

“Most of the people turned loose are criminals, people who have been arrested but not yet convicted,” Kobach tells National Review Online. “This is really a dangerous policy that results in hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal aliens [who’ve been] arrested for crimes being turned loose on the streets.”

Since the policy took effect in August 2012, the Obama administration has approved 268,361 applications for “deferred action” status, and denied just 1,377 — an approval rate of 99.5 percent.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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