Texas v. United States, CIVIL NO. B-14-254

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtAndrew S. Hanen United States District Judge
PartiesSTATE OF TEXAS, ET AL., Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., Defendants.
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. B-14-254
Decision Date16 February 2015

STATE OF TEXAS, ET AL., Plaintiffs,

CIVIL NO. B-14-254


February 16, 2015


This is a case in which twenty-six states or their representatives are seeking injunctive relief against the United States and several officials of the Department of Homeland Security to prevent them from implementing a program entitled "Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents."1 This program is designed to provide legal presence to over four million individuals who are currently in the country illegally, and would enable these individuals to obtain a variety of both state and federal benefits.

The genesis of the problems presented by illegal immigration in this matter was described by the United States Supreme Court decades ago:

Sheer incapability or lax enforcement of the laws barring entry into this country, coupled with the failure to establish an effective bar to the employment of undocumented aliens, has resulted in the creation of a substantial "shadow population" of illegal migrants—numbering in the millions—within our borders.

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The Attorney General recently estimated the number of illegal aliens within the United States at between 3 and 6 million. In presenting to both the Senate and House of Representatives several Presidential proposals for reform of the immigration laws—including one to "legalize" many of the illegal entrants currently residing in the United States by creating for them a special statute under the immigration laws—the Attorney General noted that this subclass is largely composed of persons with a permanent attachment to the Nation, and that they are unlikely to be displaced from our territory.

"We have neither the resources, the capability, nor the motivation to uproot and deport millions of illegal aliens, many of whom have become, in effect, members of the community. By granting limited legal status to the productive and law-abiding members of this shadow population, we will recognize reality and devote our enforcement resources to deterring future illegal arrivals." Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and International Law of the House Committee on the Judiciary and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Policy of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 97th Cong., 1st Sess., 9 (1981) (testimony of William French Smith, Attorney General).

This situation raises the specter of a permanent caste of undocumented resident aliens, encouraged by some to remain here as a source of cheap labor, but nevertheless denied the benefits that our society makes available to citizens and lawful residents. The existence of such an underclass presents most difficult problems for a Nation that prides itself on adherence to principles of equality under law.

Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 218-19 & n.17 (1982). Thus, even in 1982, the Supreme Court noted in Plyler that the United States' problems with illegal immigration had existed for decades. Obviously, these issues are still far from a final resolution.

Since 1982, the population of illegal aliens in this country has more than tripled, but today's situation is clearly exacerbated by the specter of terrorism and the increased need for

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security.2 Nevertheless, the Executive Branch's position is the same as it was then. It is still voicing concerns regarding its inability to enforce all immigration laws due to a lack of resources. While Congress has not been idle, having passed a number of ever-increasing appropriation bills and various acts that affect immigration over the last four decades (especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks in 2001), it has not passed nor funded a long term, comprehensive system that resolves this country's issues regarding border security and immigration. To be sure, Congress' and the Executive Branch's focus on matters directly affecting national security is understandable. This overriding focus, however, does not necessarily comport with the interests of the states. While the States are obviously concerned about national security, they are also concerned about their own resources being drained by the constant influx of illegal immigrants into their respective territories, and that this continual flow of illegal immigration has led and will lead to serious domestic security issues directly affecting their citizenry. This influx, for example, is causing the States to experience severe law enforcement problems.3 Regardless of the reasons behind the actions or inaction of the Executive and Legislative Branches of the federal government, the result is that many states ultimately bear the brunt of illegal immigration.

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This case examines complex issues relating to immigration which necessarily involve questions of federalism, separation of powers, and the ability and advisability, if any, of the Judiciary to hear and resolve such a dispute.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius:

We [the judiciary] do not consider whether the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care] Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation's elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.

* * *

Nearly two centuries ago, Chief Justice Marshall observed that "the question respecting the extent of the powers actually granted" to the Federal Government "is perpetually arising, and will probably continue to arise, as long as our system shall exist." In this case, we must again determine whether the Constitution grants Congress powers it now asserts, but which many States and individuals believe it does not possess.

132 S. Ct. 2566, 2577 (2012) (quoting McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316, 404 (1819)).


Although this Court is not faced with either a Congressional Act or an Executive Order, the sentiment expressed by these Chief Justices is nonetheless applicable. The ultimate question before the Court is: Do the laws of the United States, including the Constitution, give the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to take the action at issue in this case? Nevertheless, before the Court begins to address the issues raised in this injunctive action, it finds that the issues can best be framed by emphasizing what is not involved in this case.

First, this case does not involve the wisdom, or the lack thereof, underlying the decision by Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") Secretary Jeh Johnson to award legal presence status to over four million illegal aliens through the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans

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and Lawful Permanent Residents ("DAPA," also referred to interchangeably as the "DHS Directive" and the "DAPA Memorandum") program. Although the Court will necessarily be forced to address many factors surrounding this decision and review the relationship between the Legislative and Executive Branches as it pertains to the DHS Secretary's discretion to act in this area, the actual merits of this program are not at issue.

Second, with three minor exceptions, this case does not involve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") program. In 2012, DACA was implemented by then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The program permits teenagers and young adults, who were born outside the United States, but raised in this country, to apply for deferred action status and employment authorizations. The Complaint in this matter does not include the actions taken by Secretary Napolitano, which have to date formalized the status of approximately 700,000 teenagers and young adults. Therefore, those actions are not before the Court and will not be addressed by this opinion. Having said that, DACA will necessarily be discussed in this opinion as it is relevant to many legal issues in the present case. For example, the States maintain that the DAPA applications will undergo a process identical to that used for DACA applications and, therefore, DACA's policies and procedures will be instructive for the Court as to DAPA's implementation.

Third, several of the briefs have expressed a general public perception that the President has issued an executive order implementing a blanket amnesty program, and that it is this amnesty program that is before the Court in this suit. Although what constitutes an amnesty program is obviously a matter of opinion, these opinions do not impact the Court's decision. Amnesty or not, the issues before the Court do not require the Court to consider the public

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popularity, public acceptance, public acquiescence, or public disdain for the DAPA program. As Chief Justice Roberts alluded to above, public opinions and perceptions about the country's policies have no place in the resolution of a judicial matter.

Finally, both sides agree that the President in his official capacity has not directly instituted any program at issue in this case. Regardless of the fact that the Executive Branch has made public statements to the contrary, there are no executive orders or other presidential proclamations or communique that exist regarding DAPA. The DAPA Memorandum issued by Secretary Johnson is the focus in this suit.

That being said, the Court is presented with the following principle issues: (1) whether the States have standing to bring this case; (2) whether the DHS has the necessary discretion to institute the DAPA program; and (3) whether the DAPA program is constitutional, comports with existing laws, and was legally adopted. A negative answer to the first question will negate the need for the Court to address the latter two. The factual statements made hereinafter (except where the Court is discussing a factual dispute) should be considered as findings of fact regardless of any heading or lack thereof. Similarly, the legal conclusions,...

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