Administration officials have been telling the media that federal judge Andrew Hanen's injunction against President Obama's November executive actions on immigration limits the administration's ability to prioritize deportations. President Obama says that's nonsense.
Media reports this week were full of language like this from the Wall Street Journal: "the Obama administration said Judge Hanen’s injunction had undermined the federal government’s authority to prioritize which undocumented immigrants to deport."
Compare that to this report from Bloomberg on February 25th:
President Barack Obama said neither a judge’s ruling nor a standoff with Congress that threatens to shut down the Homeland Security Department would derail his plan to ease deportations of undocumented immigrants.
"Part of the message that I’m sending is if you qualified for the executive action that I put forward, we’re still going to make sure that your mom is not prioritized" for deportation, Obama told the audience at a town hall Wednesday in Miami hosted by Telmundo and MSNBC.
That doesn't sound like a man who feels hamstrung. Judge Hanen himself said his injunction did not limit prosecutorial discretion but did prevent the "affirmative act of bestowing multiple, otherwise unobtainable benefits upon an individual." Here's Secretary Johnson, less than a month ago:
"It is important to emphasize what the District Court’s order does not affect.
The Court’s order does not affect the existing DACA. Individuals may continue to come forward and request initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA pursuant to the guidelines established in 2012.
"Nor does the Court’s order affect this Department’s ability to set and implement enforcement priorities."
So scratch President Obama and Secretary Johnson off the administration's witness list. Their statements seem downright hostile to the argument the White House wants the press to share with the public.
I'd be surprised if that's the case that's made in court. The injunction does not limit the administration's ability to prioritize deportations (at least not according to the judge, the President, and the Secretary of Homeland Security). But it does limit "the immediate provision of benefits and privileges to millions of individuals who might otherwise be eligible for them" under Obama's November executive actions. Benefits include work permits, social security benefits, and the promise Earned Income Tax Credits to name a few. The White House doesn't want to debate the merits of issuing work permits and social security numbers to millions of people in the U.S. illegally -- not in the court of public opinion, anyway. They've steered the media away from that question. But in the Court of Appeals they may be forced to explain why the President can unilaterally open up every new American job to 4-5 million citizens of other countries who are in the U.S. illegally.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standard's Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, Oct 11th 2017 @ 3:27pm EDT