Appeals Court Smacks Down Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Obama Immigration Lawsuit

August 14, 2015 3:54 p.m.

A federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit brought by Sheriff Joe Arpaio challenging President Obama’s immigration executive order Friday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with a lower court’s decision that Arpaio — the Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff known for his anti-immigration antics — did not have standing to bring the challenge, which sought to block the Department of Homeland Security from implementing the new programs.

“We conclude that Sheriff Arpaio has failed to allege an injury that is both fairly traceable to the deferred action policies and redressable by enjoining them, as our standing precedents require,” the decision’s author, Obama-appointee Justice Nina Pillard, wrote.

Arpaio had presented two lines of argument as to why he, as the chief law enforcement agent of the nation’s fourth most populous county, had standing to bring a challenge to the Obama administration’s immigration actions. Firstly, he said that the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs were acting as a magnet that would bring more undocumented immigrants across the border, and thus weigh on his law enforcement resources. Secondly, he said that because of the programs, his agency would be arresting more undocumented immigrants who committed crimes, and cost him in terms of jail space and manpower.

“We conclude that Sheriff Arpaio has failed to allege an injury that is both fairly traceable to the deferred action policies and redressable by enjoining them, as our standing precedents require,” Pillard wrote. “His allegations that the policies will cause more crime in Maricopa County are unduly speculative. Projected increases he anticipates in the county’s policing burden and jail population rest on chains of supposition and contradict acknowledged realities.”

Pillard spent 23 pages knocking down both of Arpaio’s points.

“Even were we to ignore the disconnect between the challenged policies and the increased law enforcement expenditures that Sheriff Arpaio predicts, his reliance on the anticipated action of unrelated third parties makes it considerably harder to show the causation required to support standing,” Pillard wrote. “The injuries Sheriff Arpaio predicts would stem not from the government’s DACA or DAPA programs, but from future unlawful entrants committing crimes in Maricopa County after their arrival. “

Pillard rejected the argument put forth by Arpaio that the 2014 migrant crisis was caused by Obama’s previous immigration executive order that shielded certain young people from deportation, which he expanded as part of the executive order last fall.

“Just as we do not infer that the rooster’s crow triggers the sunrise, we cannot infer based on chronology alone that DACA triggered the migrations that
occurred two years later,” she wrote.

She also said the logic of Arpaio’s suggestion that his agency would be arresting more criminals due to Obama’s immigration policies didn’t hold up.

“The policies are designed to remove more criminals in lieu of removals of
undocumented aliens who commit no offenses or only minor violations while here,” Pillard wrote. “To the extent that such predictions are possible, if the programs are successful by their own terms, the number of crimes committed by undocumented aliens in Maricopa County should drop.”

Both Justice Sri Srinivasan, also an Obama appointee, and Justice Janice Rogers Brown signed on to Pillard’s opinion. However Brown, who was nominated by George W. Bush, wrote a concurring opinion stressing the narrowness of the decision and suggested it was in part the result of Arpaio’s failure to do his “homework.”

Brown argued that Friday’s decision should not be looked at as to what the court thought of the merits of the other challenges to Obama’s immigration actions working their way up the judicial ladder, namely the lawsuit being led by Texas.

“Despite the dazzling spin DHS puts on the DACA and DAPA programs, a
categorical suspension of existing law—distinct from the case-by-case deferrals or targeted humanitarian exemptions cited as past precedent—complete with a broad-based work authorization, arguably crosses the line between
implementing the law and making it,” Brown wrote.

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