PITTSBURGH: A federal judge in Pittsburgh ruled Tuesday that President Barack Obama overstepped his authority and violated the United States (US) Constitution when he issued an executive order last month delaying the deportation of millions of people living in the US illegally.
In an opinion issued in a local case of a Honduran man who illegally re-entered the country, US District Judge Arthur Schwab said the president cannot use his executive powers to bypass Congress.
The judge, who was appointed to the bench by former President George W. Bush, said the president’s order in November amounts to “unilateral legislative action” and is unconstitutional.
“Congress’ lawmaking power is not subject to presidential supervision or control,” the judge wrote in a 38-page opinion that quickly made its way to national news websites.
He said inaction by Congress on immigration does not endow the president with legislative powers to enact law, even temporarily.
“Presidential action may not serve as a stop-gap or a bargaining chip to be used against the legislative branch,” he wrote.
Although the opinion does not direct the government to take any action and would seem limited to the local case, it was quickly denounced by the US Department of Justice.
“The decision is unfounded and the court had no basis to issue such an order,” a Department of Justice spokesperson said.
“No party in the case challenged the constitutionality of the immigration-related executive actions and the department’s filing made it clear that the executive actions did not apply to the criminal matter before the court. Moreover, the court’s analysis of the legality of the executive actions is flatly wrong. We will respond to the court’s decision at the appropriate time.”
The case involves Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, 42, a Honduran native who was arrested in April for drunken driving in New Sewickley.
He was later indicted in a federal court in Pittsburgh for illegally returning to the US after he had been deported from New Mexico in 2005 after being caught there by the Border Patrol.
After 2005, he sneaked back into Texas from Mexico then paid a van driver to take him to New York, where a friend drove him to Pittsburgh to be re-united with his brother, who runs a landscaping business.
He entered a guilty plea here in October and remains jailed pending sentencing.