For the first time, the election of Donald Trump as President is having a direct impact on the federal government’s operations — specifically, on President Obama’s sweeping new orders aimed at delaying the deportation of upwards of four million undocumented immigrants.
In a joint motion filed in a federal trial court in Texas Friday morning, lawyers for the government and for 26 states cited “the change in administration” in asking the judge to put on hold those states’ case against the policy, until a month after Trump’s inauguration. The case was moving slowly toward a trial on the legality and constitutionality of the Obama policy — which has not yet gone into effect.
As a candidate, President-elect Trump was strongly critical of government immigration policy in general and of the deferred deportation initiative in particular. At times during the campaign, he vowed to swiftly deport all undocumented immigrants; more recently, he has seemed to modify that position.
Almost as soon as the Obama administration had announced the delayed deportation policy, the 26 states sued to bar its enforcement. That lawsuit soon resulted in court orders blocking the policy temporarily, until a trial could be held. Last June, the Supreme Court split 4-to-4, upholding the enforcement ban but without deciding anything on its validity.
The case then returned to its origin, in a federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas, near the Mexican border, and the two sides had been negotiating on a possible schedule for moving the case along toward a trial. The trial judge, Andrew S. Hanen, ordered the two sides last month to report by today on whether they could agree on a schedule.
Instead, they joined in filing the motion for a “stay of any further litigation in this court.” Such a delay, the motion said, “would serve judicial efficiency and economy so that the parties have a better understanding of how they might choose to move forward.” The two sides specifically cited the change in administration as the reason for their motion.
The filing noted that the preliminary order barring enforcement “would remain in effect for the duration of any stay.” They asked that the delay, including a postponement of any need to file a schedule for future prodeedings, last until February 20. Since everyone involved supported the motion, it said, “the balance of interests weighs heaviliy in favor of granting tha stay.”
In practical terms, what the motion means is that the case now depends upon policy choices that the Trump administration will start to make after inauguration on January 29. The proposal for delay would give the new leaders of the government a month to decide what they want to do about the delayed deportation policy. If more time were needed, they could ask that the case be delayed further.
If the new administration decides to scuttle the Obama policy entirely, it can do so by simply wiping out a series of orders issued by federal agencies, at Obama’s direction, on November 14, 2014. Those orders affect undocumented immigrations who came to the U.S. as children and have grown up in the country, as well as their parents.