|ALAMO, December 5 - This week, Texas and other states filed a federal lawsuit in Brownsville, Texas challenging President Obama’s recent Executive Action on immigration.
At a moment when our country needs strong leadership focused on developing working solutions to the difficult issues facing our State and country, it’s disheartening to see politicians abuse our judicial system and plunder taxpayers’ money with such a political gambit.
The “basis” of the lawsuit is twofold. The lawsuit first contends that the President’s Executive Action violates the Constitution’s “Take Care” clause, which charges the Executive branch with “faithfully execut[ing]” existing laws. The lawsuit further argues that the President’s action is illegal because the agencies implementing the program are not following “procedure required by law.”
As creative as they are, both arguments are unavailing. The President’s Executive Action does not change any law, does not grant legal status to anybody, and does not implicate any constitutional controversy. It is simply an exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the enforcement of our immigration laws, just as President Reagan did in 1987 and President Bush did in 1990 in what was known as the “Family Fairness Program.” Those exercises of discretion—like President Obama’s—are permissible and even necessary for our legal system to function: with a finite number of resources, enforcement priorities must be set.
The complaint, signed by 13 states and four governors, is rife with quotations by the President in which he suggested earlier in his presidency that deferred action at this scale was not feasible. It also attempts to link (somehow) this year’s influx of unaccompanied children to the deferred action program. But these are not legal arguments; they are political rhetoric. Even a first year law student could see that after reading the complaint. It is doubtful anyone will be surprised if the lawsuit is dismissed in its early stages for failing to state a claim.
Whether you agree with Obama’s Executive Action or not, it is hard to deny that using taxpayers’ dollars to file a lawsuit that borders on the frivolous is a waste of resources. At a time when the very foundation of our criminal law system is shaken by the events in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY, and elsewhere, we need effective, determined leadership, not political gimmicks. Yet, some of our leaders chose to burden our already backlogged courts with a baseless lawsuit to pursue a political agenda. It is frustrating and a disservice to us all.
This unfortunate lawsuit is simply a political stunt that caters to the President’s political opponents. Our federal courts are not the forum for such stunts, especially when those stunts are financed with taxpayer dollars.
Efrén C. Olivares is an attorney wtih the South Texas Civil Rights Project in Alamo, Texas.
Editor's Note: The lawsuit referred to in this op-ed was filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in federal court in Brownsville. We will run Abbott's op-ed as soon as we receive it.