Sheriff Joe Arpaio's lawsuit against Obama's immigration order will head to court Dec. 22

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Arizona's Maricopa County.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Arizona's Maricopa County.  (2011 Getty Images)

There’s a date for a court showdown between Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the White House.

Dec. 22 is the date that U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell has set for a hearing in Washington D.C. on a request from the Maricopa County sheriff – who has a national reputation for his tough views on undocumented immigrants -- to block President Barack Obama’s executive action granting some 5 million immigrants who are here illegally a three-year reprieve from deportation.

The president’s executive order came after what he described as frustration over Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Arpaio’s lawsuit, which was filed on the same day, Nov. 20, that Obama announced his executive action, argues that the president’s unilateral move is unconstitutional, according to published reports.

The president’s plan extends deportation relief and, by extension, work permits, to millions of undocumented immigrants, mostly those who have been in the country more than five years and have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

Obama also reordered law enforcement priorities and expanded an existing deportation deferral program for immigrants brought illegally as kids.

Arpaio’s lawsuit echoes the view of many opponents of Obama’s executive action that the president cannot unilaterally give a relief from deportation to an entire class of people. More than two dozen states, led by Texas, are suing the Obama administration on the same grounds.

“Defendant Obama and the other defendants are not engaging in individualized adjudication of illegal aliens one by one so as to involve prosecutorial discretion,” their lawsuit says. “These programs are wholesale legislating, not retail adjudication.”

White House lawyers, however, say that the executive order falls within the powers of the president and that previous presidents also have given immigrants relief through unilateral action.

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