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Law professors: Decision to halt executive action on immigration wrong

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – More than 100 immigration law scholars and professors have signed on to a letter released today that calls a federal judge’s decision to temporarily halt President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration “deeply flawed.”

The letter argues that the president’s two recent executive actions on immigration – the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program – are “well within the legal authority of the federal executive.”

"In the wake of great confusion about whether the extended DACA and DAPA are legally sound, we hope this letter sets the record straight on immigration law and sheds light on how deferred action has functioned in the immigration system for decades," says letter coauthor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and clinical professor of law at Penn State Law.

On Feb. 16, Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a temporary injunction against the president’s executive actions on immigration. His ruling in Texas v. United States, a lawsuit brought by 26 states challenging the president’s authority to act on immigration, temporarily stops the implementation of the new DACA and DAPA programs.

According to the 104 legal scholars who signed on to the letter, however, “there is strong legal authority for deferred action in general, and for DACA and DAPA in particular as forms of deferred action.” The letter provides background on this legal authority and on the use of prosecutorial discretion and deferred action in immigration enforcement.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice filed a motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit asking the court to stay Hanen’s ruling.

In addition to Wadhia, the letter was co-written by Jill Family, professor of law and director of the Law & Government Institute at Widener University School of Law; Stephen H. Legomsky, John S. Lehmann University Professor at the Washington University School of Law; and Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law.

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