12 states defend Obama's immigration plan against lawsuit

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

A coalition of liberal states defended President Obama's new immigration policies against a major lawsuit in a legal brief filed on Monday.


Washington state joined 11 other states and the District of Columbia in submitting a legal analysis in federal court that counters a lawsuit seeking to undo Obama's plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and give them work permits.

Obama's program, announced in November, faces a court challenge from 25 conservative states who believe it exceeds the power of the executive branch and causes states "irreparable harm."

In response to the lawsuit, Washington state filed an amicus brief on Monday explaining why they believe the president has the authority to grant sweeping deportation relief to undocumented immigrants and how the new policies will benefit states economically.

"The goal is, number one, to set the record straight before the court," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a call with reporters. "The president's actions will actually assist states across the country, including Washington state."

The judge hearing the case, Andrew S. Hanen of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, has no obligation to use the information provided in the brief, but could incorporate the legal arguments into his decision.

Hanen may not be receptive, however. He's known as an immigration hardliner, someone whom Talking Points Memo described as a "dream judge" for Republicans who want to sink Obama's deportation relief program.


A host of blue states (and at least one purple) signed onto Washington's legal brief: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Police chiefs of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. also filed a separate amicus brief on Monday.

The show of support comes as the legal challenge is set to reach the court within days. On Thursday, Hanen is scheduled to preside over a hearing to consider whether a preliminary injunction should be granted against Obama's new policies. If that happens, the implementation of the deportation relief program could be delayed, Ferguson said.


Ferguson argues in the amicus brief that Texas and the other litigating states cannot prove the immigration moves are likely to cause "irreparable harm," a condition needed for an injunction. Instead, the brief claims, Obama's policies will boost state economies.

The brief estimates that tax revenues in Washington could increase by $57 million over the next five years, even if not all of the state's 105,000 eligible immigrants are approved for deportation relief and work permits.


"Allowing immigrants to work legally and increase their wages has far-reaching, positive impacts on state and local economies," the brief says.

Updated on Jan. 13, 9 a.m.: This piece was updated with information about an amicus brief filed by police chiefs in major U.S. cities.


Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.