Ariz. sheriff Joe Arpaio aims to halt Obama immigration order

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio Attempts To Block Obama's Immigration Order

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge on Monday appeared deeply skeptical of an Arizona sheriff's lawsuit seeking to halt President Barack Obama's plan to spare nearly 5 million people from deportation.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell questioned whether Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had legal standing to challenge the immigration program announced last month. She suggested the topic is better left for Congress and the Obama administration to sort out.

In the first courtroom battle over Obama's plan, Arpaio's lawyer Larry Klayman said the president violated the Constitution by doing an end-run around Congress. He argued that the program would let more illegal immigrants enter the country and commit crimes, burdening law enforcement.

"It's not policy, he's creating law and he cannot do that under the U.S. Constitution," Klayman said of Obama.

But Justice Department lawyer Kathleen Hartnett said Arpaio's lawsuit seemed to be raising a "political dispute" rather than a legal claim the court could address. The Obama administration has called the case "speculative and unsubstantiated" and has urged the court to dismiss it.

Howell at times seemed exasperated with Klayman, a longtime conservative activist who has filed hundreds of lawsuits against the federal government, including challenges to Obama's U.S. citizenship. When Klayman said his client has been threatened because of his tough views on Obama's immigration policy, Howell responded: "That just doesn't cut it for me."

Howell also said it did not appear that Arpaio could show a "concrete" injury he has suffered from the new policy, especially since it will take months before the bulk of it actually goes into effect.

"If Congress doesn't like it, doesn't Congress have the power to step in?" she asked.

Howell said she would issue a ruling in the case soon.

Arpaio has often clashed with the federal government over the enforcement of immigration laws and he has filed suit to stop new policies announced by Obama. He claims that more than 35 percent of immigrants living in Maricopa County illegally who wound up in Arpaio's jails in 2014 were repeat offenders, signifying in the sheriff's view that federal officials have done a poor job of deporting criminals.

Obama's plan marks the most sweeping change to the nation's immigration policies in nearly three decades and set off a fierce fight with Republicans. The changes include work permits and three-year deportation stays for more than 4 million immigrants here illegally. It mostly applies to those who've been in the country more than five years and have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

Under the program, the Homeland Security Department would prioritize the removal of immigrants who present threats to national security, public safety or border security. DHS officials could deport someone if an Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office director determined that removing the person would serve an important federal interest.

The White House has insisted that Obama is acting under proper legal authority to enforce the nation's immigration laws.

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Associated Press writers Pete Yost and Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.

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Ariz. sheriff Joe Arpaio aims to halt Obama immigration order
FILE-This Jan.9, 2013 file photo shows Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaking with the media in Phoenix. Arpaio known for arresting hundreds of immigrants in the country illegally on charges of finding work using fake or stolen identities is planning to close the controversial squad that investigates such cases. Arpaio's decision to disband the criminal employment squad will end his last major foothold in immigration enforcement after the courts and federal government have gradually reined in his powers in recent years. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin,File)
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces dozens of arrests in a prostitution sting during a news conference at Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Headquarters Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in Phoenix. Maricopa County sheriff's deputies made dozens of arrests in the sting in which undercover officers posed as 16-year-old girls as men responded to an online ad. The investigation also resulted in numerous drug-related arrests. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2007 file photo, the U.S. Border Patrol detains a large group of suspected immigrants at the Arizona-Mexico border in Sasabe, Ariz. A federal judge has barred use of a policy that allowed people who paid to be sneaked into the United States to be charged under Arizona’s immigrant smuggling law as conspirators to the crime. U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield’s ruling said the interpretation of the 2005 state law conflicts with federal law. The ruling is the latest in a series of restrictions placed on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration enforcement efforts. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
In this June 4, 2013 photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio holds a news conference regarding a drug bust, at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Training Center in Phoenix. Arpaio, who led the way for local police across the country to take up immigration enforcement is reconsidering his crackdowns _ and other law enforcement officials who followed his lead are expected to eventually back away, too, Friday, June 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
In this June 4, 2013 photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio holds a news conference regarding a drug bust, at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Training Center in Phoenix. Arpaio, who led the way for local police across the country to take up immigration enforcement is reconsidering his crackdowns _ and other law enforcement officials who followed his lead are expected to eventually back away, too, Friday, June 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
FILE -- In this July 17, 2012, file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks during a press conference in Phoenix. The tough-talking sheriff is the last man standing of the three Phoenix politicians who made Arizona a leader in the crackdown against illegal immigration. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
FILE - In this May 6, 2004 file photo, Larry Klayman speaks in Melbourne, Fla. A gadfly attorney and a county sheriff from Arizona want to halt President Barack Obama’s immigration program in the first courtroom battle over the initiative designed to spare nearly 5 million people from deportation. On Monday, Klayman will try to persuade a judge nominated by Barack Obama that the immigration system, contrary to what the president says, isn’t really broken. Klayman says the president has violated the Constitution by doing an end run around Congress and that drastic changes in immigration programs should be stopped. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove, File)
A Pinal County Sheriffs Deputy informs protesters that a bus load of Central American immigrant children will not arrive at a juvenile facility, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Oracle, Ariz. Federal officials delayed the bus with no details on whether the children will arrive or not. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau speaks to the media as protesters gather near the entrance to juvenile facility in an effort to stop a bus load of Central American immigrant children from being delivered to the facility, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Oracle, Ariz. Federal officials delayed the bus with no details on whether the children will arrive or not. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)
A Pinal County Sheriffs Deputy informs protester Eldon Rhodes, front, that a bus load of Central American immigrant children will not arrive at a juvenile facility, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Oracle, Ariz. Federal officials delayed the bus with no details on whether the children will arrive or not. (AP Photo/Matt York)
FILE - In this April 3, 2012 file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio pauses prior to holding a news conference in Phoenix. Sheriff Arpaio has been in office 20 years, mainly by being tough on crime and, more recently, illegal immigration. But the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America is in the middle of the most difficult re-election fight of his career, largely because those themes are being turned against him. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file)
In front of a sign that says "Gracias," meaning thank you in Spanish, President Barack Obama receives a hug from the owners of "La Hacienda" restaurant, Lilia Yepez, left, and Carlos Yepez, before ordering food to go from the Mexican restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Earlier in the afternoon in Nashville the president spoke about his executive actions on immigration. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama, right, greets Elizabeth Narvaez-Vega, left, with Arturo Prieto-Valdez, both students at Glencliff High School in Nashville, after the president spoke about his recent executive actions on immigration at Casa Azafran in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama speaks about his recent executive actions on immigration at Casa Azafran in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In front of a sign that says "Gracias," meaning thank you in Spanish, President Barack Obama speaks with the owners of "La Hacienda" restaurant, Lilia Yepez, left, and Carlos Yepez, before ordering food to go from the Mexican restaurant in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, after speaking about his executive actions on immigration. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama answers questions about his recent executive actions on immigration at Casa Azafran in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama rolls up his sleeves while being asked a question about his recent executive actions on immigration, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, at Casa Azafran in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama speaks about his recent executive actions on immigration, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, at Casa Azafran in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama calls on a questioner about his recent executive actions on immigration, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, at Casa Azafran in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama waves to a crowd on the tarmac after arriving on Air Force One in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Obama is in Nashville to visit the Casa Azafran community center and speak about immigration reform. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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