Court Blocked Administrative Relief Over Cost of Driver’s Licenses

Texas doesn't charge enough for driver's licenses.

The lawsuit that blocked implementation of President Obama’s administrative relief program was filed in South Texas in the hopes that it would be tried by one of the most conservative judges on the federal bench. Judge Andrew S. Hanen, a Bush appointee, has a record of statements antithetical to immigrant rights. His decision is a political document founded on a “states’ rights” approach to immigration law that has long been rejected by the courts.

One of the most bizarre aspects of the judge’s ruling is his decision to allow the states to sue at all. Generally, states have not been able to challenge federal immigration laws and policies because these are exclusively federal matters. This is not a new view by the courts, it dates back more than a century and a quarter. So even allowing the states to try to derail a federal immigration policy is odd and dangerous.

The court also had to find that the states would be harmed by administrative relief before it issued its injunction. Here is the “injury” that the judge found. He said that Texas would suffer because the newly work authorized immigrants would be “eligible to apply for driver’s licenses, the processing of which will impose substantial costs on its budget,” according to the judge’s opinion.

The cost is incurred, said the judge, because under Texas law “applicants pay $24.00 to obtain a driver’s license, leaving any remaining costs to be absorbed by the state.” The net loss per license, according to the state is $174.73. In other words, the states can sue, according to Judge Hanen, because Texas does not charge enough for its driver’s licenses.

Rather than trample on states’ rights by asking Texas to charge what it costs to issue a license, the judge found that this small loss per license applied for justified blocking work permits for 4 million people.