Ten U.S. immigration agents lost a challenge to an Obama administration initiative to defer deportation of some people who are in the country illegally.
The agents contended that the plan announced in June 2012 was unlawful and placed them in the untenable position of violating their sworn duty to uphold federal law by complying with the directive or facing discipline for failing to do so.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Dallas today dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that federal civil service laws deprive him of jurisdiction over what the administration maintained was an employment dispute.
“Congress has determined that this court does not have jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ disputes,” the judge said. Still, O’Connor maintained the agents are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the directive is contrary to the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.
The directive gives agents the ability to defer action on people unlawfully in the U.S. if they came to the country under the age of 16, are in school or have obtained a high school diploma, haven’t been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors, and aren’t a threat to public safety or national security.
The “Deferred Action” initiative, announced in June, was created with the intent of shifting immigration agency focus toward border security and the removal of dangerous people.
“This is not amnesty, this is not immunity,” Obama said at the time. “This is not a path to citizenship, it’s not a permanent fix.” Deferral, if conferred, is valid for two years, during which the person may obtain authorization for employment, and can be renewed, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. The deferral can be renewed.
The case was filed by attorney Kris Kobach, who also serves as Kansas Secretary of State and is a national Republican Party adviser. Lead plaintiff Christopher L. Crane is president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, a 7,600-member federal immigration agents’ union.
Kobach didn’t immediately reply to a voice-mail message seeking comment on the court’s decision.
While O’Connor concluded after an April hearing that the Department of Homeland Security didn’t have the discretion to refuse to initiate deportation proceedings, he refrained from ruling on the agents’ request for injunctive relief, ordering an additional round of briefing.
The case is Crane v. Napolitano, 3:12-cv-03247, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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