“You shall not pass” – The ongoing debate of deportation in the United States

With the Fifth Circuit’s decision to not halt deportation of immigrants and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France, there is a nationwide debate regarding immigration, national security, and allowing refugees inside the United States.

Photo by KFU Forums.

This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided that deportation will not be halted for approximately five million illegal immigrants in the United States.  Just days ago, the Fifth Circuit in a 2-1 opinion, upheld a federal judge’s injunction blocking President Obama’s executive action to stop deportation proceedings.

The program gives deferred deportation and work permits to certain qualifying immigrants.

 The immigration initiative, “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents” (“DAPA”), was announced by President Obama last November as immigration reform.  The program gives deferred deportation and work permits to certain qualifying immigrants.  In particular, immigrants who have lived in the United States at least five years, and were the parents of U.S. Citizens or legal permanent residents would not be deported.  The program also defers deportation for immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.

The Fifth Circuit upheld the injunction that was issued by United States District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in February of this year.  The case arose out of twenty-six states suing to block the executive action from taking effect.  In Judge Hanen’s injunction order, he discussed the serious problem the United States has with people coming to this country illegally.  Judge Hanen emphasized the increase in terrorist attacks in recent years, and a need for stronger security.  The injunction issued by the U.S. District Court in February stopped the immigration program from taking effect unless the decision was later overturned by a higher court.

The government appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and oral arguments were held in mid-July of this year.  Ultimately, however, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s injunction, preventing the immigration program from taking effect.  The reasoning behind the opinion was that the program did not follow proper administrative procedures, and the creation of the program was beyond the power that Congress designated to the President.

Soon after the decision was announced, the White House made a statement indicating its plans to request that the United States Supreme Court overturn the decision. 

The states that brought the lawsuit argued that the executive action and implementation of the program was unconstitutional because the program failed to comport with the Administrative Procedure Act.  Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, who was one of the twenty-six governors to file suit, called the decision “[A] vindication for the rule of law and the Constitution.  The President’s job is to enforce the immigration laws, not rewrite them.”

However, the government countered that the program was within prosecutorial discretion of the executive branch and that the states had no standing to bring the case.  After the Fifth Circuit’s decision was announced, Justice Department Public Affairs Specialist, Patrick Rodenbush stated,

The Department of Justice remains committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible in order to allow DHS to bring greater accountability to our immigration system by prioritizing the removal of the worst offenders, not people who have long ties to the United States and who are raising American children.

Soon after the decision was announced, the White House made a statement indicating its plans to request that the United States Supreme Court overturn the decision.  If the Supreme Court takes the case in its current term, a decision could be announced by next summer.

 National security has been a major concern of many American citizens, as well as state governments in the past few weeks. 

The Fifth Circuit’s opinion on the immigration program has ultimately become part of a larger controversial debate on issues of national security, terrorism, and the refugee crisis.  National security has been a major concern of many American citizens, as well as state governments in the past few weeks.  This is mainly due to the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th.  On that night, gunmen attacked popular restaurants and bars in the city, a major sports stadium, and a concert venue almost simultaneously, killing one hundred and twenty nine citizens and wounding hundreds of others.

Not only has the terrorist attack had a profound impact on France, but also the rest of the world.  Currently, refugees from parts of the Middle East have been seeking refuge in European countries including France.  Refugees have been coming from countries such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, and most often, Syria.  As of this month, approximately 700,000 refugees have applied for asylum in Europe to escape the violence in their home countries.  Most refugees have been from Syria, because of the vicious civil war that has been going on in the country for over four years.  Since 2011, more than 250,000 people have died in Syria due to the violence.  In addition, approximately eleven million people there have fled their homes, and sought asylum in parts of Europe.

Conflicting news reports on whether any of the terrorists in Paris were refugees has been exacerbating issues with national security and immigration.  Although some news outlets originally reported that a refugee passport was found by one of the terrorist’s, other news sources have said that is false and that the terrorists were all French citizens who got involved with the terrorist group.

The existing confusion has caused citizens in Europe and the United States to fear that some terrorists may be posing as refugees to obtain admission into certain countries. The United States had agreed in September of this year to take in 10,000 more refugees over the next year in addition to those already here.

 Just this week, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, said he believes a “pause” is necessary to properly evaluate the refugee situation.

However, with the terrorist attacks in Paris occurring not even two weeks ago, and with terrorist propaganda videos appearing to target the United States, many American citizens are hesitant to welcome new refugees into the country.  Echoing these concerns, governors from approximately thirty states have spoken out about their refusal to take refugees into their respective states.  Just this week, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, said he believes a “pause” is necessary to properly evaluate the refugee situation.  The House then subsequently passed legislation tightening the screening procedures for refugees entering the United States.  The bill passed 289-137, and would require the director of the FBI, the director of National Intelligence, and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to confirm that each refugee from Syria or Iraq does not pose a security threat to the United States.  Despite the bill’s passage in the House, the bill’s fate in the Senate is unclear.

Yet, for those who agree with the United States taking refugees, they emphasize that The Refugee Act of 1980 does not allow governors to block refugees from settling in their states.  Professor Stephen I. Vladeck accentuated that the decision is one for the federal government, by stating, “Legally, states have no authority to do anything because the question of who should be allowed in this country is one that the Constitution commits to the federal government.”  Supporters have also argued that the refugees coming to the United States will already be rigorously screened, so as to make sure they aren’t a threat to national security.

Although it is unclear what the resolution is to this problem, it is safe to say that immigration will be an important issue to most Americans for the foreseeable future.

Olivia Bouffard, Staff Writer
About Olivia Bouffard, Staff Writer (12 Articles)
Olivia Bouffard is a 2016 graduate and served as a Staff Writer for the Campbell Law Observer. She graduated from UNC-Wilmington with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2013. Following her first year of law school, Olivia participated in a study abroad program at Cambridge University. During the Fall 2014 semester she interned with Judge Stanford L. Steelman, Jr. at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Olivia worked with the Department of Public Instruction as a legal intern with the State Board of Education during the summer before her third year.