Republican lawmakers have been speaking out against President Barack Obama's immigration plans since they were announced over a month ago, but so far have taken no meaningful action against the policy changes. Instead, it was Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has attempted to strike the first blow against the immigration executive actions. Now his lawsuit against the immigration orders has seen its first day in court.
On November 20, 2014, Obama announced sweeping immigration changes through executive action. The expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and newly created Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) may protect as many as 5 million people from the threat of deportation, and even provide legal work authorization. However, the same day the announcement was made, Arizona's Arpaio filed a lawsuit to end the changes, calling the action unconstitutional.
Together with his attorney Larry Klayman, they have argued their case before U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in the nation's capital. Klayman argued the executive action involves serious issues of constitutionality. According to news reports, Judge Howell was apparently skeptical of Arpaio's argument, and questioned whether the sheriff had any legal standing to bring this lawsuit. Judge Howell indicated that Congress may be in a better position to determine whether Obama had authority to take such action, instead of the ruling coming from a federal court judge.
Arpaio's lawsuit centers on allegations of that the president has acted beyond his constitutional authority by making changes to immigration laws that can only be done by Congress. They claim that the law would encourage immigration, which would lead to more crime, and burden Maricopa County's law enforcement resources. His lawsuit calls the new program “amnesty.”
Judge Howell found that Arpaio's claim of being threatened for his views on the immigration laws, were questionable, responding, “that just doesn't cut it for me.” Howell also doubted Arpaio could show any injury, especially because it will be months before the policies go into effect. She also added, “if Congress doesn't like it, doesn't Congress have the power to step in?” Judge Howell said a ruling in the case would be issued soon.
The Justice Department has responded that Arpaio's argument is purely speculative, and that the policy would instead remove criminal immigrants, and those who recently entered the country. A Justice Department lawyer, Kathleen Hartnett said the lawsuit was an issue of political disagreement rather than an addressable legal claim. They requested that the court dismiss the case.
Arpaio's lawsuit is the first case to be heard on the controversial immigration policy changes. Another, more comprehensive lawsuit has been filed by Texas' Attorney General Greg Abbott, and has been joined in by more than twenty other states, including Arizona. It remains too early to say how the states' lawsuit will be affected if Arpaio's case is dismissed.
Klayman appeared confident after presenting their case, and indicated they may take their case to a higher court if it came to that. Klayman, like Arpaio, is no stranger to controversy. He previously has alleged President Obama has falsely claimed U.S. citizenship, and even petitioned the Department of Homeland Security to begin deportation proceedings against the president.