Immigration enforcement agents are likely to keep challenging the legality of a federal program that suspends deportations for certain undocumented immigrants, their attorney said Friday.
Kris Kobach, who represents 10 agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that the Obama administration program giving a two-year reprieve from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors undermines his clients’ duty to enforce the law.
“We’re assessing our options,” Kobach said to Fox News Latino. “The lawsuit is not over. One option is to appeal this decision. Another is to follow the administrative course under the civil service rule.”
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor said he was dismissing the lawsuit because it was not within his court’s jurisdiction to decide on what essentially is a dispute between federal employees and their employer, the U.S. government. The judge said that there were civil service employment channels through which the agents could challenge the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
The lawsuit is not over. One option is to appeal this decision. Another is to follow the administrative course under the civil service rule.
- Kris Kobach, attorney representing immigration agents
O’Connor, sitting in Dallas, Texas, pointed out that he essentially agreed with the agents’ contention that the deferred deportation program undermined their duty to enforce the law.
“The ICE officers are correct in their legal conclusion” about DACA, Kobach said. “It orders ICE agents to violate federal law, and it’s important that the judge said that because the court didn’t have to.”
Obama implemented DACA last year amid growing criticism from immigration advocates that he had failed to fight hard enough for comprehensive immigration reform – particularly the aspect of it that gives certain undocumented immigrants a chance to legalize their status.
Many immigration advocates vehemently criticized the agents' lawsuit, saying it targeted immigrants who had been brought to the country as children and, as such, had no say in their parents’ decision to enter illegally, or to overstay their visas.
Kobach, who is the Kansas secretary of state, is a pivotal figure in many high-profile cases around the country that seek to crack down on illegal immigration.
He is the architect of many of the nation's state-level immigration measures, including Arizona's SB1070.
He was a lead attorney in cases involving ordinances in Hazleton, Pa., Farmers Branch, Texas and Fremont, Neb. that called for making it illegal to rent to undocumented immigrants.
Kobach, a champion for those who oppose illegal immigration, long has been a proponent of the concept of "self-deportation," whereby life becomes so difficult for undocumented immigrants that they leave the United States on their own.
Kobach said that his commitment to getting involved in cases like that of the ICE agents and the others that strive for tough enforcement against undocumented immigrants is, for him, a matter of “the rule of law.”
“There are a lot of cases going on right now,” he said. “We’re trying to ensure the law is being enforced. Are we a country of laws, or a country where we are fueled by political forces?”
He added: “Every state is a border state. Illegal aliens are smuggled in, mostly through Arizona these days, they are taken to safe houses in Phoenix, and they’re shipped out across the country.”
To be eligible under DACA, immigrants have to prove that they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, have been in the country for at least five years, are 30 or younger, are in school or have graduated or have served in the military. They cannot have a criminal record or otherwise be considered a threat to public safety or national security.
The president of the ICE agents’ union, Christopher L. Crane, is the main plaintiff in the lawsuit against DACA.
Immigration advocates have pushed for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a measure that would give such immigrants a pathway to legalization. Several efforts to pass it have failed. But new efforts to come up with an immigration reform law include a provision to allow immigrants brought as minors a chance to obtain legal status.
The advocates expressed relief over the dismissal of the ICE agents' lawsuit. But they are watching what happens next.
“Kris Kobach is the only one who seems to believe that his campaign of anti-immigrant litigation, legislation and advocacy is going well," said Frank Sharry, the founder and executive director of America's Voice, a D.C.-based group that advocates for more lenient immigration laws.
"He just lost his lawsuit against DREAMers. He lost at the Supreme Court last year, when the justices knocked the legs out from under the Arizona and Alabama state laws he helped write. His local ordinances have been blocked in the courts and cost local communities millions to defend. Given his sorry track record, the anti-immigrant world might want to look for a new lawyer.”
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente