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Texas Judge Halts Obama's Executive Action On Immigration


We begin this hour with the ruling by a federal judge in Texas that halts President Obama's executive actions on immigration - actions that would grant temporary legal status to millions of people. In a moment, what the ruling means to some unauthorized immigrants. First here's NPR's Scott Horsley on what it means for the White House and its budget showdown with Congress.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The ruling from Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, was blunt. The George W. Bush appointee said the administration was not just rewriting laws when it decided to grant legal status to millions who'd come into the country illegally. It was creating laws from scratch and actively thwarting the dictates of Congress. Texas Governor Greg Abbott cheered the judge's decision. It was Abbott who challenged the administration's move as Texas Attorney General last fall, and his lawsuit was joined by 25 other states.


GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: In Texas we will not sit idly by while the president ignores the law and fails to secure the border.

HORSLEY: Political analyst Jack Pitney of Claremont McKenna College says the judge's rebuke is at least a temporary setback for President Obama, who's increasingly relied on using his executive authority to get around a hostile Republican Congress.

JACK PITNEY: The president's been on something of a role in recent weeks, at least as far as domestic policy goes, and this is a bump in the road. Now whether it's a total detour remains to be seen.

HORSLEY: The White House immediately said it would appeal the judge's ruling, and President Obama says he's confident he acted within his authority.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Keep in mind that this is something that we necessarily have to make choices about because we've got 11 million people here who we're not all going to deport.

HORSLEY: The Texas decision is only a temporary injunction, but it could provide a temporary escape from the budget box that Congressional Republicans now find themselves in. Republicans in the House insisted on reversing the president's immigration actions as part of a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Senate Democrats refused and the resulting standoff leaves the department with its border guards, airport screeners and emergency management agency facing a potential cash crunch at the end of this month. Even Senate Republicans, like Tennessee's Bob Corker, say that's a problem. Corker spoke this weekend on CBS.


SENATOR BOB CORKER: We do not need to leave our nation in a situation with the type of threats that we have with an agency that's not working at full steam.

HORSLEY: Up until now House Speaker John Boehner has been stuck between the conservative hard-liners in the House and more moderate Republicans in the Senate. But longtime budget watcher Stan Collender, who's now with Qorvis MSLGROUP, says the judge's ruling in Texas could give Boehner a way out.

STAN COLLENDER: What this does is give John Boehner an excuse to go back to the extremists in his own caucus and say you know what? The court has given us a little room. Let's wait and see how it plays out.

HORSLEY: It's not clear whether Boehner will consider taking the immigration language out of the funding bill when Congress returns from recess next week. Boehner said in a statement today he's waiting for Senate Democrats to give ground. Meanwhile, the immigration lawsuit moves on to an appeals court in New Orleans, where political analyst Pitney says there will be further arguments about the balance of power between Congress and the executive branch and between the federal government and the states.

PITNEY: I don't know if all of this is good for the country, but it's great for those of us who teach American government.

HORSLEY: A government that, for the moment, remains deeply divided. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.