AUSTIN, Texas >> Texas is leading a 17-state coalition suing over President Barack Obama’s recently announced executive actions on immigration, arguing in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the move "tramples" key portions of the U.S. Constitution.
Many top Republicans have denounced Obama’s unilateral move, which was designed to spare as many as 5 million people living illegally in the United States from deportation.
But Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott took it a step further, filing a formal legal challenge in federal court in the Southern District of Texas. His state is joined by 16 other mostly conservative states, largely in the south and Midwest, such as Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana and the Carolinas.
The states aren’t seeking monetary damages, but instead want the courts to block Obama’s actions.
The lawsuit could make things awkward come Friday, when Abbott travels to Washington to meet with Obama as part of a group of newly elected governors.
Under Obama’s order, announced Nov. 20, protection from deportation and the right to work will be extended to an estimated 4.1 million parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and to hundreds of thousands more young people.
The lawsuit raises three objections: that Obama violated the "Take Care Clause" of the U.S. Constitution that Abbott said limits the scope of presidential power; that the federal government didn’t follow proper rulemaking procedures; and that the order will "exacerbate the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, which will affect increased state investment in law enforcement, health care and education."
Abbott said Obama’s actions "directly violate a fundamental promise to the American people" and that it was up to the president to "execute the law, not de facto make law."
Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan, have issued past executive orders pertaining to immigration. Abbott said those were in response to actions by Congress — unlike Obama, who Abbott said acted in lieu of congressional approval.
Overwhelmingly elected governor last month, Abbott has been Texas attorney general since 2002. Wednesday marks the 31st time he has sued the federal government since Obama took office.
Many of those were over environmental regulations or the White House’s signature health care law, however. The only other high-profile lawsuit against Obama’s executive order has come on behalf of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Earlier this week, House Majority Leader John Boehner told lawmakers the GOP-led House may vote to undo Obama’s executive action, but the move would be mostly symbolic, as Obama would certainly veto such legislation and the Democratic-led Senate wouldn’t go for it, either.
Potential 2016 presidential candidate and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who leaves office in January, also spoke out against the executive order earlier Wednesday, saying it could trigger a new flood of people pouring across the Texas-Mexico border and create chaos that could be exploited by drug- and people-smugglers.
Perry said hours before Abbott’s announcement that Obama’s 2012 executive order delaying the deportation of children brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents triggered an unprecedented wave of unaccompanied minors and families, mostly from Central America, crossing into the U.S. this summer.
"In effect, his action placed a neon sign on our border, assuring people that they could ignore the law of the United States," said Perry, who has deployed up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.
Abbott said his state can already predict the future effects of Obama’s executive action based on the 2012 order.
"Texas has been at the epicenter of the results of the president’s executive action," Abbott said.
The federal lawsuit involves the following states: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.