JACKSON — Gov. Phi Bryant has joined in a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its plan to stop deporting many young illegal immigrants and grant them work permits.
Bryant’s action drew swift criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi.
The lawsuit was filed in August in federal court in Dallas on behalf of 10 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees. It contends that the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan violates federal law and forces ICE employees to break the law by not arresting certain illegal immigrants.
“States must protect their borders while the federal government continues to ignore this growing problem,” Bryant in a news release.
“I believe this action by the Obama administration is unconstitutional and circumvents Congress’ authority,” Bryant said. “The fact remains that illegal immigration is a real issue with real consequences, and ignoring the rule of law is irresponsible. As governor, I cannot turn a blind eye to the problem of illegal immigration and its costs to Mississippi.”
Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh, program director at the ACLU of Mississippi, said in a separate news release that President Barack Obama’s executive order “had given numerous young people, many of whom came to the United States as babes in arms, the opportunity to pursue the American dream.”
“Now, Gov. Bryant is trying to snatch that opportunity away from them,” Kohsin-Kintigh said. “If Gov. Bryant is truly concerned about the economic impact of undocumented immigrants, why would he deny these young people the opportunity to get work permits and become taxpayers?”
Bryant, a Republican, has said for years he wants to tighten immigration enforcement because he believes the federal government has done a poor job.
During the 2012 session, the Mississippi House passed an immigration-enforcement bill but a Democratic chairman, Hob Bryan of Amory, killed the bill by choosing not to bring it up for debate in the Senate Judiciary B Committee. Bryan said the bill attempted to micromanage the way law-enforcement officers do their jobs.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
In June, Napolitano and Obama said that some illegal immigrants could avoid deportation and be granted a work permit for up to two years.
Under the program, immigrants have to prove that they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, have been in the country for at least five years, are 30 or younger, are in school or have graduated or have served in the military may be eligible. They cannot have a criminal record or otherwise be considered a threat to public safety or national security.
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