Joe Arpaio's DACA Challenge Tossed Out by U.S. Appeals Court

No, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, you can’t sue President Obama for filling up Maricopa County jails.

That’s what three judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit concluded when they affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss Arpaio’s lawsuit challenging the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans programs.

Arpaio claimed that DACA and DAPA, which grant quasi-legal status and work permits to certain undocumented immigrants, drove up the number of people jumping the border and, thereby, increased crime in Arizona.

The court held, however, that Arpaio “failed to allege an injury that is both fairly traceable to the deferred-action policies and redressable by enjoining them.”

The sheriff’s argument that deferred deportations would lead to more crime in Maricopa County is “unduly speculative,” wrote Judge Nina Pillard, who was appointed to her position by Obama. In fact, she argued, the policies were designed to free up federal resources to deport more undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes by identifying those who had not. In order to qualify for DACA or DAPA, immigrants must be felony-free.

“If the programs are successful by their own terms, the number of crimes committed by undocumented aliens in Maricopa County should drop,” Pillard wrote.

Just because the court doesn’t think Arpaio has legal standing, however, doesn’t mean judges wholeheartedly back Obama’s actions.

“If the programs are successful by their own terms, the number of crimes committed by undocumented aliens in Maricopa County should drop." — Judge Nina Pillard

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In a separate opinion. Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a George W. Bush appointee, lamented “the need to show concrete injury,” which she argued makes it “virtually impossible to challenge many decisions made in the modern regulatory state.”

She expressed strong doubts about the constitutionality of DACA and DAPA, which were initiated via executive order.

Despite the Department of Homeland Security’s “dazzling spin,” Brown posited that the programs represent a “categorical suspension of existing law” that, when combined with work authorization, “arguably crosses the line between implementing the law and making it.” 

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz praised the ruling in a statement.

"The court correctly recognized that the Constitution does not permit federal courts to hear lawsuits that rest on baseless speculation," he said. "We will continue to work toward resolving the legal challenges so that the administration can move forward with implementing all of the president's common sense immigration policies."
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Elizabeth Stuart
Contact: Elizabeth Stuart