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Arizona’s “Sheriff Joe” Loses Challenge to Obama’s Executive Orders on Immigration

President Obama

Last November, President Obama created opportunities for nearly five million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to live and work without fear of removal by issuing a series of executive orders expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and creating a new program of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) (see New Immigration Laws Announced, posted November 21, 2014).

Not long after the executive orders were announced, they came under fire from individuals and groups who oppose these steps toward immigration reform. In at least one instance, a lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutional authority of the President’s actions. The sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio, sued the President in federal court in the District of Columbia. However, the judge in the case of Arpaio v. Obama dismissed the lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The judge held that Sheriff Joe’s complaints amounted to little more than “generalized grievances” and were not the proper subject for judicial resolution. Although the Sheriff complained that the President’s actions would cause him to make more frequent arrests which would increase his costs to house inmates in his jails, this argument was speculative and not grounded with any proof. One could just as easily argue that the executive orders will decrease arrests and lower the costs incurred by Maricopa County jails.

One judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that the President’s orders are unconstitutional, but that ruling came in a criminal removal case, and the judge was neither asked nor required to rule on the executive orders in order to decide the case. The D.C. judge therefore gave it little credit. A more serious challenge to the executive orders may come from Brownsville, Texas, where the state of Texas along with 24 other states are challenging the constitutionality of the President’s actions. A hearing in that case is slated for January 9th. Meanwhile, Sheriff Joe has indicated his intention to appeal his case to the U.S. Court of Appeals and possibly even to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

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