President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration survived their first major court test Tuesday, when a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit claiming the president exceeded his constitutional power. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell dismissed a challenge brought by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and backed by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman. Howell ruled that Arpaio had not shown the direct harm from Obama's actions needed to institute a lawsuit in the federal courts.
A couple of weeks ago, President Obama's executive actions on immigration policy seemed to suffer a legal setback, though many of the headlines gave the public the wrong impression. A Republican judge in Pennsylvania, hearing a case of an undocumented man accused of "illegal re-entry," took it upon himself to condemn the White House's policy in a ruling.
But no one had brought a challenge of the president's policy to this district court, so the judge's complaints lacked any legal weight or consequence.
A few days later, however, we heard from a federal court that considered an actual challenge to the White House's actions. As Josh Gerstein reported, the president and his team have reason to be pleased with the ruling.
Howell, an Obama appointee, explained in her ruling, "The role of the Judiciary is to resolve cases and controversies properly brought by parties with a concrete and particularized injury -- not to engage in policymaking better left to the political branches. The plaintiff's case raises important questions regarding the impact of illegal immigration on this Nation, but the questions amount to generalized grievances which are not proper for the Judiciary to address."
The outcome was hardly a surprise. The challenge for the White House's critics is that it's tough to establish standing in a case like this -- going to federal court and complaining that you don't like an executive action isn't the same thing as demonstrating harm as a result of the action.
The right-wing litigants have already taken the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where most legal analysts expect a very similar outcome.
"Judge Howell's decision today confirms what the Department of Justice and scholars throughout the country have been saying all along: the President's executive actions on immigration are lawful," White House spokesperson Eric Schultz said in a statement. "The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that federal officials can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws, and the actions announced by the President are consistent with those taken by administrations of both parties for the last half century."
Our pals at "The Ed Show" had a good segment on the case last week that's worth checking out:
Dec. 22, 201406:52