Federal Courts Send Mixed Signals as Texas Continues to Lead Anti-Immigration Fight

Mississippi, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, cannot use the courts to challenge President Obama's 2012 decision to allow some immigrant children who entered the United States illegally to avoid deportation. Affirming a district court ruling, the 5th Circuit found that the state couldn't prove any actual damages from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Tuesday's news wasn't all bad for those who oppose the president on immigration, though. A U.S. District Court judge in Brownsville indicated, again, that he was open to the arguments presented by a Texas-led coalition of 26 states that is challenging another decision by Obama to grant similar protection to some undocumented parents.

Let's start with the 5th Circuit. The New Orleans court, generally viewed as the most conservative circuit, upheld a lower court ruling Tuesday that tossed the Mississippi suit out, which challenged DACA, the federal program that allows undocumented residents brought to the United States at a young age to remain in the U.S., go to school and work without fear of deportation. The court ruled that Mississippi had no standing to bring its suit.

Meanwhile, in Brownsville, Judge Andrew Hanen kept the the tone he's set in the case so far and denied the federal government's request that he lift the stay he issued in February that prohibits the feds from implementing Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, which would have expanded protection from deportation for many undocumented parents of American citizens.

Hanen said in his previous ruling that "[o]nce these services are provided, there will be no effective way of putting the toothpaste back in the tube should Plaintiffs ultimately prevail on the merits."

In issuing the initial stay, Hanen indicated that he believes the 26 states led by Texas have a good chance of prevailing on the merits of their suit. Seemingly, that would mean that the Texas case, like the Mississippi case, is inevitably headed for the 5th Circuit. Given how entrenched both sides are, that's surely the case, but as Dara Lind pointed out writing for Vox Wednesday, Texas is in a stronger position than Mississippi was. Texas has provided an estimate for the potential cost of driver's licences issued to those who would be covered by DAPA. However trivial that seems, the estimate does reflect potential real monetary damages for the state, something Mississippi never did convincingly in its findings.

For Texas to win its case, it will have to prove both that those damages would be real and that the president overstepped his constitutional authority when he issued his executive actions. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that's exactly what the president did.

"Texas can claim another victory for the Rule of Law and the Constitution with the District Court's decision to deny the President's request to proceed with his unlawful executive action. The administration's request had no legal grounds and proves that we are dealing with a President that disregards the Rule of Law and the system of checks and balances that are key to the Constitution. I am confident that Texas, along with the 25 other states that have joined us in challenging the President's executive overreach, will continue to prevail at every stage of the legal process as this case works its way to the Supreme Court," Abbott said in a statement issued Wednesday.

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