State Lawsuits Challenging Executive Action Are Unlikely to Succeed

Within hours of President Obama announcing his Immigration Accountability Executive Action plan, Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a lawsuit challenging the President’s authority to grant such relief. Twenty-five other States  backed a similar lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s plan.

The premise of Sheriff Arpaio’s and the 25 other States case is that a “flood… of illegal aliens” will enter the U.S., which will result in a “crime wave” because “illegal aliens… are repeat [criminal] offenders.” This will result in harm, so the argument goes, because the States will have to expend a significant amount of law enforcement resources to address the rise in crime. This statement is unfounded. In fact, statistics show that the crime rate among immigrants is far less the those born in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice responded to Arizona’s complaint with a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The DoJ argues that the States do not have standing to bring a lawsuit. Standing, in legal terms, is the right of a person or entity who has been harmed to file suit to protect their interests. The DoJ asserts that Arpaio can only speculate but cannot substantiate actual harm.

While the crux of the lawsuit is aimed at relief to those in the country illegally, it could delay or prevent altogether the immigration relief provided for legal immigrants under President Obama’s executive actions. Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments by both parties on December 22, 2014, and is expected to rule on Arpaio’s motion for preliminary injunction and the Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss in the coming week.


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