As a federal appeals court considers whether to keep or rescind a hold on President Obama’s immigration program, the attorney general of the state leading the charge against the president’s executive actions “is very confident” the plaintiffs will win out.
“All I can tell you is, based on the law, I feel very confident,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in an interview with The Daily Signal. “I am very confident we are right on the law. And if the law matters, we will do very well.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments on April 17 about whether to uphold or remove an injunction on Obama’s 2014 immigration actions.
Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas put a hold on those actions on Feb. 16, preventing the immigration initiatives from going into effect.
This week, Hanen denied the federal government’s request to allow Obama’s immigration actions to proceed, saying that doing so would cause irreparable harm.
In his ruling, Hanen accused Justice Department lawyers of lying about whether a component of Obama’s executive actions was already being carried out.
Obama’s actions, announced in November, would protect millions of immigrants here illegally from deportation and grant them work permits.
“I am very confident we are right on the law,” says @KenPaxtonTX
In an interview, Paxton, whose state leads a 26-state effort to block the executive actions, commented on Hanen’s recent ruling and predicted how the appeals’ court process will play out, among other things.
The interview has been condensed as a Q&A below.
The Daily Signal: Do you agree with Hanen’s ruling that Justice Department lawyers engaged in “misconduct” and lied about whether any part of the president’s executive actions have already been carried out?
Paxton: They definitely, however you want to phrase it, misrepresented the facts. It’s pretty clear they did. I would argue they had numerous opportunities—from the first telephone hearing Dec. 19, to the hearing on Jan. 15 on the preliminary injunction, to things that they wrote—to tell us.
As the judge notes, even though they [Justice Department lawyers] admit they knew [that a portion of Obama’s immigration program was allegedly being implemented] on Feb. 17, it still took them two weeks beyond when they admitted that they knew to tell the judge and the plaintiffs the truth.
So even assuming all the facts as they state them, which are hard to believe, they still did not represent the truth.
Q: The Justice Department said that before Hanen’s injunction, federal officials had granted 100,000 people an extension of benefits to those who already qualified for Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. So if nobody new benefited, why is it that you believe the administration has already begun implementing its 2014 executive actions?
A: You are right, It is for people originally benefiting [under the 2012 DACA]. But what it did was, under the new DACA program, it was expanding from two years to three years how long they have to be effective under DACA. So while they [Justice Department lawyers] are arguing it is under the old DACA, the reality is it was really the new expanded 2014 DACA they were implementing.
Q: In a separate case this week regarding the legality of Obama’s 2012 DACA program, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled the plaintiffs did not have the right to challenge in court because they lacked standing. This same appeals court will issue a ruling on whether to rescind Hanen’s injunction. How is this case different?
A: There are significant differences from what I understand. Specifically, they did not have the same amount of documentation that we have. We have a lot more information that we have presented to the court. I think we have significant advantage over what they have.
Q: How have people in Texas reacted to Hanen’s injunction?
A: I think people are supporting it. But we are not excited based on those things.
The point is this [Obama’s immigration actions] was a violation of the constitution. So whether you agree with the policy or not agree with the policy, our first argument is fundamentally that the president cannot change the law and basically force border security, Border Patrol and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to not enforce in the law. We don’t think he has the authority to do that.
The second issue is the cost to the state.
Our representatives did not get to vote. He [Obama] has changed the law basically to the opposite of what it is. It was not passed by Congress or signed by the president.
We don’t think we should incur the costs without proper functioning of the constitutional process where it goes through Congress and an elected body, where we have debate and transparency and there’s a vote.
Q: If you don’t support Obama’s programs, how would you handle the 11 million or so immigrants who are living in the country illegally?
A: I believe we should have a lawful policy and people ought to follow it. So whatever Congress puts in place, that’s what ought to be followed. If the process is one way, I don’t think the president should be able to come in and change it.
Look, I was in the legislature. I used to deal with policy all the time. I am not Congress. This is a federal issue.
If I had some say in this, I’d say the first thing you need to do is shut down illegal immigration going forward. I don’t think you can address much going forward unless you effectively stop the inflow because it’s just a band-aid.
Whatever you do, it doesn’t mean a whole lot if you haven’t solved the initial problem.
In my opinion, the federal government hasn’t made any effort at all—not much effort anyway—to actually resolve the issue.
If you go down to the border, which I have done recently, you can see that Border Patrol for the most part are not on the border. They are 50, 60 miles inland at checkpoints.
Texas DPS [Department of Public Safety] is on the border, but we don’t have the same authority Border Patrol has. So the plan right now is really not very effective because Border Patrol is not in the place it needs to be. There aren’t enough of them on the border.
It doesn’t make sense. Until you solve that problem, you can’t address any of the other problems.
Q: Texas state legislators are pushing to repeal a 2001 law that allows Texas “Dreamers” to receive in-state tuition. Should this be repealed? If so, why?
A: I think it would be great if we could afford to educate the entire world. It’d be fantastic. The reality is we have limited resources. The state has limited resources and I always believed those resources should first go to residents of the state of Texas and that would mean citizens.
Just like I don’t think we should give in-state tuition to Oklahomans, or if you’re from Russia or Spain or wherever—if you get in-state tuition before a resident of Texas.
Q: Finally, how do you think the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit will rule on Hanen’s injunction. Do you think Obama’s immigration program will be allowed to go forward?
A: All I can tell you is, based on the law, I feel very confident.
I am very confident we are right on the law. And if the law matters, we will do very well.