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Appeals Court Tosses Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Challenge To Obama Immigration Programs

A federal appeals court dismissed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s challenge to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration on Friday. The three-judge panel found the sheriff didn’t have standing to sue.

The case dates back to November 2014, when Obama announced new programs that would allow an estimated four million unauthorized immigrants to qualify for work permits. One program would allow unauthorized immigrant parents of U.S. citizen children to qualify for deferred action and work permits, while another would expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the administration launched in 2012.

A federal judge placed the immigration initiatives on hold after 26 states led by Texas sued in December 2014. The states, including Arizona, argue the president lacks the authority to make this move. The programs have remained on hold as the case is litigated.

But Arpaio actually brought the first legal challenge to the Obama administration’s immigration programs.

In his suit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., last November, Arpaio also argued the executive actions were unconstitutional. The sheriff argued he had standing to bring the challenge because the programs would attract more illegal immigration and more crime to Maricopa County.

But on Friday, the three judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Arpaio had not adequately shown he would be injured by the immigration initiatives, and his claim the programs would cause more crime was “unduly speculative.” The appeals court upheld an earlier ruling and dismissed Arpaio’s case.

Attorney Larry Klayman of the organization Freedom Watch represents Arpaio in the case and has promised to appeal.

“We are going to the Supremes, ASAP,” Klayman wrote to KJZZ in an email.

Immigrant rights advocacy groups applauded Friday’s ruling.

“Today’s sound decision is another victory for aspiring Americans and their 5 million U.S. citizen children who stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s immigration policy directives,” said Marielena Hincapié of the National Immigration Law Center in a statement. “This was a baseless attack, on behalf of the country’s most anti-immigrant sheriff. Let this be another reminder to Sheriff Arpaio and his allies that they are standing on the wrong side of the law, public opinion, and history.”

Meanwhile, the fate of the Obama administration’s proposed immigration initiatives lies with the 5 th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court heard oral argument last month in the lawsuit brought by the 26 states against the Obama administration.


Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.