President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration were ruled “unconstitutional” on Tuesday by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, who was tasked with determining whether the unilateral actions applied to a defendant in a criminal case. It’s unclear what impact the ruling will have outside of the case in civil court.
“President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore, is unconstitutional,” U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab wrote in his 38-page opinion. The Pittsburgh-based judge concluded that Obama’s executive action exceeds “prosecutorial discretion” because it “provides for a systematic and rigid process by which a broad group of individuals will be treated differently than others based upon arbitrary classifications, rather than case-by-case examination” and “allows undocumented immigrations, who fall within these broad categories, to obtain substantive rights,” Schwab wrote.
After months of fighting with Congress over immigration reform, Obama announced Nov. 20 his plan to act unilaterally to increase law enforcement personnel at the borders, make it easier and faster for immigrants who are educated and entrepreneurs to stay, and address the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the United States. “If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Obama said during his address to the nation on immigration.
Schwab, a George W. Bush appointee, is not alone in challenging the president's policies. Nearly half the nation has signed a pending lawsuit against Obama over his executive action on immigration, Politico reported. Incoming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is leading the legal challenge against Obama. “The president’s proposed executive decree violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law, circumvents the will of the American people and is an affront to the families and individuals who follow our laws to legally immigrate to the United States,” Abbott said in a written statement.
So far, 24 states are onboard with the legal coalition: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, according to CNN.
Because Obama’s executive action on immigration was deemed unconstitutional, Schwab wrote that the actions do not apply to defendant Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, a Honduran immigrant federally charged with unlawful re-entry after being arrested in Pennsylvania for drunk driving. However, Schwab wrote that he would consider Juarez-Escobar to withdraw a guilty plea the defendant offered in October “in light of the executive action.”