The administration has a plausible legal argument: the president is ordering immigration authorities to exercise discretion, just as a prosecutor does not bring all possible indictments. In his 123-page opinion Judge Hanen disagrees. "The DHS cannot reasonably claim that, under a general delegation to establish enforcement priorities, it can establish a blanket policy of non-enforcement that also awards legal presence and benefits to otherwise removable aliens."
That tracks with the president's boast that, when he signed the order, "I just took an action to change the law."
But Judge Hanen's decision rests on a narrower ground -- that the government, in issuing work permits and authorizing the issuance of driver's licenses, did not follow the rules of the Administrative Procedure Act. The administration will appeal and the outcome must be regarded as uncertain.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants have had their plans disrupted, and should the administration prevail on appeal their status could still be revised by a later president. Issuing this order to, belatedly, keep a campaign promise was negligence without concern for the possible danger to others.
Obama has also acted with reckless disregard in administering the Obamacare statute he cites as his greatest domestic achievement. More than three dozen times he has unilaterally ordered non-enforcement of politically problematic provisions.
And the entire structure of the act is in peril because of one of those actions in the King v. Burwell case, scheduled for argument in the Supreme Court March 4.
The Obamacare legislation authorizes subsidies to be paid only in states with health insurance exchanges "established by the state." But Obama's Internal Revenue Service decided that it would also authorize them in the 36 states which did not establish an exchange but opted for using the federal exchanges authorized by the statute.