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Pennsylvania Judge Issues Opinion Declaring the President’s Executive Immigration Action Unconstitutional

gavel-3-1409593-m.jpgRecently, a Pennsylvania federal judge issued a case opinion ruling that the President’s executive action on immigration – specifically, suspending the deportation proceedings for qualifying undocumented foreign nationals – is unconstitutional. However, it is unclear whether this ruling will have any impact on the greater immigration debate because the judge was never asked to consider the constitutionality of the President’s executive action.

The Case

The case before U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab was criminal in nature. The defendant is Mr. Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, a Honduran national whom the United States had previously deported to his home country. After deportation, Mr. Juarez-Escobar made an unlawful re-entry into the U.S. and was subsequently arrested on a drunk driving charge.

According to court documents, neither the defendant nor the prosecution referenced the President’s executive action policies in their arguments because these policies are only supposed to apply to civil proceedings. (Under current law, deportation qualifies as a civil proceeding.) However, Judge Schwab seems to have taken it upon himself to examine the President’s executive action anyway.

Judge Schwab’s Opinion

In his 38-page decision, Judge Schwab stated that it is possible that Mr. Juarez-Escobar may have benefited under the temporary suspension of deportation and because of this, the President’s actions violate the separation of powers established in the Constitution. The judge also alleges that the executive action violates the “take care clause” of the Constitution, which instructs presidents to take care that the laws of the U.S. are faithfully executed.

In support of his conclusion, the Judge states that the President’s executive action exceeds the normal boundaries of prosecutorial discretion because it seeks to implement a formal procedure by which the cases for a broad and large group of foreign nationals will be treated differently and in a preferential manner compared to other individuals. Additionally, he stated that the action provides undocumented foreign nationals with access to substantive rights, including employment authorization. Judge Schwab points to a number of the President’s previous statements that, when cherry-picked and taken out of context, would seem to confirm that the President exceeded his Constitutional authority.

The Response to Judge Schwab’s Opinion

The U.S. Department of Justice wasted no time in asserting that Judge Schwab was “flatly wrong” in his opinion and stated that his opinion was unfounded. A Justice Department spokesperson also affirmed that the judge’s ruling would in no way hinder or become an obstacle for the implementation of the President’s executive action policies. The Department is currently preparing its own response to the judge’s opinion.

The Rant

In addition to the stalemates and obstacles provided by an inactive and uncooperative Congress, it now seems that members of the judiciary branch of government are also working to further delay and interfere with comprehensive immigration reform. Hopefully, Judge Schwab’s opinion remains an anomaly as the country continues to struggle to move forward on this critically important legislative priority. Continue to check with our blog for the most up to date news on this and all other immigration-related issues.

Additional Blog Posts

The Possible Impact of Sequestration for Employers and Immigrant Workers, ImmigRantings, April 22, 2013
More States Expected to Exert Control Regarding Illegal Immigration Problems, ImmigRantings, August 3, 2013