Thursday, February 19, 2015
As I have written elsewhere, I favor comprehensive immigration reform, including some form of amnesty for many of the 11-12 million people currently residing in the United States without authorization. But, a formal repreive - even a temporary one - for those residing here illegally must, under our Constitution, come via legislative action not executive fiat. Last November, frustrated by congressional impasse, President Obama directed Homeland Security to give a formal 3 year repreive (called DAPA) to 4 to 5 million persons living in the United States without authorization. It is my assessment that this action and subsequent action by the Secretary of Homeland Security amounted to unconstitutional legislating by the Executive (I may elaborate in a later post).
26 states sued to enjoin the enforcement of DAPA, and this past Monday a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of DAPA. In a circumspect opinion, the judge ruled that Homeland Security failed to comply with the notice and comment requirements of the Adminstrative Procedures Act. The court very properly declined to address the constitutional separation of powers issues at the preliminary injunction stage because "[j]udging the constitutionality of action taken by a coequal branch is a 'grave' and 'delicate duty' that the federal judiciary is called on to perform. ... if there is a non-constitutional ground upon which to adjudge the case, 'it is a well-established principle governing the prudent exercise of this Court's jurisdiction that normally the Court will not decide a constitutional question.'"
Based upon its conclusion (rightly I think) that the administration engaged in substantive rulemaking rather than prosecutorial discretion, I have little doubt that this court will find a separation of powers violation if it reaches the constitutional issue, but I applaud the judge's efforts to avoid the constitutional issue.