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Illegal immigration: agents sue to block Obama's 'DREAM Act'

Ten immigration agents say President Obama's bid to block deportation of some young illegal immigrants in a 'DREAM Act lite' is unconstitutional, and they are challenging it in court. 

By Staff writer / August 23, 2012

Protesters denounce Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's executive order to deny driver's licenses and other public benefits to young illegal immigrants who obtain work authorizations under a new Obama administration policy in this photo from last Thursday in Phoenix.

Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic/AP

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WASHINGTON

Ten federal immigration officials filed suit on Thursday asking a US district judge in Dallas to block the Homeland Security Department from implementing President Obama’s decision to give special immigration status to some 1.7 million children of illegal immigrants.

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The suit charges that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and a key immigration official are engaging in an illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of government power by implementing an administrative version of the DREAM Act without congressional authorization.

It says the agency action is forcing immigration agents in the field to either enforce federal law as passed by Congress or abide by the administration’s new immigration policies and priorities.

“We are federal law enforcement officers who are being ordered to break the law,” said one of the plaintiffs, Chris Crane, a deportation officer in Utah, and president of the immigration agents’ union.

Ms. Napolitano issued an agency directive on June 15 instructing immigration officials to use their “prosecutorial discretion” to confer special immigration status to the children of illegal immigrants. The program took full effect on August 15 and drew thousands of initial applicants. 

The DREAM Act is a legislative proposal designed to lift the cloud of deportation over children who were brought to the US before they were 16, have been in the country for five years, and have no criminal record. The DREAM Act has been debated 24 times since 2001 but has never passed Congress.

Earlier this year, Mr. Obama declared that his administration would take action on its own to implement the goals of the DREAM Act without relying on legislation from Congress.

Critics denounced the move as an unconstitutional power grab designed to appeal to potential Latino voters in a critical presidential election year.

Supporters said the executive branch of government has ample discretionary authority to implement DREAM Act goals. The effort is consistent with the administration’s policy of focusing enforcement and deportations on illegal immigrants who commit serious crime, officials say.

Thursday’s lawsuit essentially asks a federal judge to resolve the debate.

“This is an absolutely breathtaking assertion of authority,” said lawyer Kris Kobach, who is representing the 10 immigration officers.

“The administration can’t do this by fiat,” he said.

Mr. Kobach is secretary of state in Kansas and is an informal adviser to Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate. He was a delegate to the Republican Party’s platform committee in advance of the GOP’s national convention in Tampa, Fla., next week.

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