It did not take long after President Barack Obama's announced immigration policy changes before his challengers took to the courts to stop the executive actions. One of the most fervent anti-immigration figures in the country, Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a lawsuit challenging the immigration changes within hours of the November 20th announcement. In response to the first of the coming lawsuits, the Justice Department has sought to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Arizona sheriff Arpaio.
The Justice Department is asking U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing Arpaio's lawsuit is meritless. Arpaio's position is that the executive action will have the effect of bringing more immigrants into the U.S., and they will commit crimes which will burden the law enforcement resources of his county's sheriffs. Arpaio alleges harm to “his” country and “his” resources. The Justice Department argued there is no standing for the suit because Arpaio's theory is speculative, and there is no evidence that he will be injured in any way due to the immigration policy changes.
The Justice Department continued to challenge Arpaio's claims that the executive action creates amnesty for immigrants. Their position is that the executive action does not create or grant any legal status for undocumented immigrants, but only temporarily grants deferral on a case-by-case basis, through prosecutorial discretion. Discretion, in this case, is limited to those who have been in the country since 2010 with deep ties to the country.
Of course, this is not the first time Arpaio has clashed with the federal government over his laws and policies. Many of the Arizona anti-immigration laws have been struck down as unconstitutional, and Arpaio's office faces charges of racial profiling. It is unclear whether this latest lawsuit will be the case that determines the legality of President Obama's executive actions, which could impact as many as 5 million people in the U.S.
Since Arpaio's lawsuit was filed, more than 20 states, including Arizona, have joined Texas in a federal court challenge to the immigration changes on the grounds that the president has violated constitutional limits on the powers of the executive. In addition, the states' lawsuit alleges Obama's actions will only make the humanitarian crisis along the southern border worse.
The lawsuits represent one front line in the battle over immigration reform. As the congressional year comes to a close, next year will likely feature a renewed battle coming from GOP lawmakers hoping to put an end to the executive actions. In anticipation, one strategy from the White House has been to enroll as many people as soon as possible to make it more difficult for Congress or even a subsequent president, to reverse the deferred actions.
Although enrollment under deferred action for childhood arrivals and for parents of citizens will not begin until next summer, drumming up support for the program among affected families and individuals will pressure Congress to rethink their calls to end the programs. Meanwhile, immigration activists continue to pressure the president on relief for the millions who were left out of the immigration reforms, primarily the parents of DACA immigrants, or those known as DREAMers.