The Slatest

What the Immigration Fight Looks Like Now

Sen. Jeff Sessions applauded the federal judge’s ruling that temporarily blocked Obama’s executive action on immigration.  

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Quick update on Immigration Mega Smackdown 2015: A federal judge moved on Monday to temporarily block the president’s executive action to defer deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. The ruling is a significant but impermanent victory for the 26 states suing the president over the executive action.

It’s also a cheery boost to the Hill Republicans aiming to make funding for the Department of Homeland Security contingent on not funding Obama’s immigration order. Most recently, Senate Democrats blocked a must-pass bill—or one that was considered must-pass, until they blocked it—that would have funded the department without funding the president’s move. There’s been ample rancor from both sides, and the whole thing feels a bit like a miniature version of the lead-up to the partial government shutdown of October 2013 that we all remember so fondly.

It looks like an unstoppable force is about to meet an immovable object. Though congressional Republicans are sharply divided on immigration issues—some favor comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while others oppose any policy change that would allow more immigrants to enter the country legally—they concur on one thing: The president’s unilateral move was an unconstitutional abuse of his power.

Democrats differ. Senate Democrats, a minority in the chamber, can keep the DHS funding legislation from passing, and as Frank Thorp V reports at NBC, the judge’s ruling hasn’t changed their position one bit—they adamantly refuse to support a funding bill that blocks the president’s immigration move. After all, the president’s executive action on immigration is a crucial part of his second-term domestic policy, and they risk massive backlash from comprehensive immigration reform advocates and Hispanic voters if they toss it out at the first sign of Republican opposition.

Still, Republicans are delighted with the judge’s move, and say it’s fortified their resolve to keep fighting the fight. Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has more credibility with conservative immigration hawks than any other member of Congress, called the court’s ruling “yet further affirmation that the president’s action—as the president himself admitted many times—is illegal.”

“The president has acted unconstitutionally, and it is the president—not Congress—who must back down,” he continued.

Sessions’ response indicates that Hill conservatives will take heart in the judge’s move and stay their course. And that may mean that the DHS’s funding will expire in just nine days.