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Thursday, June 23, 2016



Sources:  NY Times, CNN,  NBC News, WSJ, Youtube

The Supreme Court on Thursday announced that it had deadlocked in a case challenging President Obama’s plan to shield millions of immigrants from deportation and allow them to work. 

The 4-4 tie left in place an appeals court ruling blocking the plan, dealing a sharp blow to an ambitious program that Mr. Obama had hoped would become one of his central legacies. 

Instead, even as the court deadlocked, it amplified the already contentious election-year debate over the nation’s immigration policy and presidential power.

The case, United States v. Texas, No. 15-674, concerned a plan to allow as many as five million unauthorized immigrants who are the parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to apply for a program that would spare them from deportation and provide them with work permits. 

The program was called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.

Mr. Obama has said he took action in 2014 after years of frustration with Republicans in Congress who had repeatedly refused to support bipartisan Senate legislation to update immigration laws. 

A coalition of 26 states, led by Texas, promptly challenged the plan, accusing the president of ignoring administrative procedures for changing rules and of abusing the power of his office by circumventing Congress.

In February 2015, Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, Tex., entered a preliminary injunction shutting down the program while the legal case proceeded. 

The government appealed, and a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans affirmed the injunction.

In their Supreme Court briefs, the states acknowledged that the president had wide authority over immigration matters, telling the justices that “the executive does have enforcement discretion to forbear from removing aliens on an individual basis.”

 Their quarrel, they said, was with what they called a blanket grant of “lawful presence” to millions of immigrants, entitling them to various benefits.
In response, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the justices that this “lawful presence” was merely what had always followed from the executive branch’s decision not to deport someone for a given period of time.

“Deferred action does not provide these individuals with any lawful status under the immigration laws,” he said. “But it provides some measure of dignity and decent treatment.”

“It recognizes the damage that would be wreaked by tearing apart families,” Mr. Verrilli added, “and it allows individuals to leave the shadow economy and work on the books to provide for their families, thereby reducing exploitation and distortion in our labor markets.”

The states said they had suffered the sort of direct and concrete injury that gave them standing to sue.

Judge Jerry E. Smith, writing for the majority in the appeals court, focused on an injury said to have been suffered by Texas, which he said would have to spend millions of dollars to provide driver’s licenses to immigrants as a consequence of the federal program.
Mr. Verrilli told the justices that Texas’ injury was self-inflicted, a product of its decision to offer driver’s licenses for less than they cost to produce and to tie eligibility for them to federal standards.
Texas responded that being required to change its laws was itself the sort of harm that conferred standing. 
“Such a forced change in Texas law would impair Texas’s sovereign interest in ‘the power to create and enforce a legal code,’” the state’s lawyers wrote in a brief.
Judge Hanen grounded his injunction on the Obama administration’s failure to give notice and seek public comments on its new program. 
He found that notice and comment were required because the program gave blanket relief to entire categories of people, notwithstanding the administration’s assertion that it required case-by-case determinations about who was eligible for the program.

The appeals court affirmed that ruling and added a broader one. The program, it said, also exceeded Mr. Obama’s statutory authority

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