Trial lawyers have a favorite saying: "When you have the facts on your side, you pound the facts into the table. When you have the law on your side, you pound the law into the table. When neither the facts nor the law are on your side, you pound the table!"
In November, when President Obama announced that he would take executive actions to re-prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws so that some illegal immigrants could obtain a three-year delay in their deportation proceedings and a temporary work permit, critics had neither the facts nor the law on their side. So they pounded the table.
Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators charged that Obama was pushing an "unlawful amnesty" that threatened the republic.
Yet most of the law professors and legal experts who weighed in, even the conservatives, acknowledged that Obama was acting within the power of the presidency. Critics didn't seem to have a legal leg to stand on.
That is, until this week. In Texas, a federal judge temporarily blocked
Obama's executive action and cleared the way for a lawsuit against the administration brought by that state and 25 others.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, a George W. Bush appointee with a history of taking conservative positions
on immigration issues, bought the plaintiffs' argument
that Obama's executive actions would unfairly result in "direct damages" to the states.
Hanen claimed that Obama's executive action could result in "bestowing multiple and otherwise unobtainable benefits" on those illegal immigrants who qualify for deferred action. This would include the undocumented parents of U.S.-born children.
Yet, most so-called "benefits" — driver's licenses, college aid, medical care — come not from the federal government but from the states, and at their discretion.
In all, Hanen's ruling went on for 123 pages. Still, he ducked the central question: whether the President had exceeded the authority granted to the office under the Constitution. Instead, the judge ruled that the administration had not complied with the Administrative Procedure Act, which calls for a longer notification and comment period from lawmakers and the public before taking action.
Imagine if there had been a comment period before acting in the war on terror. Buildings would be smoldering, and we'd still be talking.
The White House -- while saying that it would abide by the judge's ruling — also reiterated that the President was "well within his legal authority" to set enforcement priorities. The Justice Department intends to appeal the decision.
This case could end up before the Supreme Court, where most of the justices have smiled on expanding executive power.
The coalition of states that brought the lawsuit — which is led by Texas — includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
It figures that, when there's a mess, Texas will be in the middle of it.
I lived there for five years — about a decade ago — while writing for the Dallas Morning News. And I smell hypocrisy. During my time in the Lone Star State, I often heard people complain about illegal immigrants. But I never heard them say a word about the employers who hire them to do jobs that Texans won't do such as tarring roofs in 100-degree weather or cleaning windows on skyscrapers.
The folks doing the hiring are always the root of the problem, but — in a red state like Texas — you can't get Republicans to say that. It's safer for politicians to pick on people who don't vote than to risk antagonizing those who not only vote but also contribute money to campaigns.
The states that brought this lawsuit are worried that, if Obama allows some illegal immigrants to remain in this country for three years, they'll have to pick up the tab for providing services. Where was this concern over the many years that these states were standing on the positive side of the ledger by benefiting from illegal immigrant labor — so much so that they turned a blind eye to the employers and businesses using it?
How did these 26 states wind up with so many illegal immigrants? The undocumented didn't go there for the scenery. They went because someone was waiting there to offer them a job. We never talk about that, or do anything about it. And so, no matter what courts decide or politicians decree, the problem of illegal immigration will never go away.
That's the truth that needs to be pounded into the table.