Wall Street Journal
By: Jess Bravin and Byron Tau
January 19, 2016
The Supreme Court took up the divisive political issue of immigration Tuesday, saying it would rule on the Obama administration’s stalled plan to defer deportation of more than four million illegal immigrants.
The decision sets the stage for a blockbuster ruling on presidential powers in June, landing in the middle of the 2016 presidential election season where immigration is already a hot-button issue.
President Barack Obama’s immigration actions are part of a second-term move toward the use of executive orders and actions to set policies, in the face of a Republican-controlled Congress. His use of the administration’s authority has been heavily criticized on the campaign trail from Republicans who oppose his agenda on energy, guns and foreign relations.
With Congress deadlocked over an immigration overhaul, Mr. Obama in November 2014 cited his executive authority in making changes in immigration policy to give a temporary reprieve to illegal immigrants whose children hold U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. The plan sought to prioritize removal of serious criminals while allowing parents of children to work without fear of deportation.
The Supreme Court will rule on President Obama's immigration plan that would defer deportation for parents of children born in the U.S.
Texas and 25 other largely Republican-led states sued to invalidate the program. Fifteen Democratic-leaning states and the District of Columbia, along with leaders of major cities including Houston, Los Angeles and New York, have backed the administration.
In February 2015 a federal district judge in Brownsville, Texas, halted it, a decision upheld by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Lower courts found the administration didn’t follow proper administrative procedures in issuing the regulations; courts have yet to hold full trial proceedings on the matter.
The high court added an additional question to the case. The court asked the parties to address whether the immigration plan “violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution”—that is, the provision, rarely if ever litigated, directing the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
The question hints that at least some conservative justices have concerns about the legality of the Obama administration’s moves.
“This is quite the bombshell if the court is really going to do something with it,” University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson said.
”It can’t be the liberals who want this briefed and argued,” he added, referring to the four liberal members of the court. He said the implications for conservative justices would be great as well should the court use the rarely-invoked Take Care language to restrict presidential discretion.
The White House expressed confidence the Obama administration would prevail in court.
”Like millions of families across this country—immigrants who want to be held accountable, to work on the books, to pay taxes, and to contribute to our society openly and honestly—we are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to review the immigration case,” said White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine.
The White House has argued the Department of Homeland Security has the legal discretion to defer deportation of certain classes of aliens, and must prioritize enforcement because it lacks the resources to remove all illegal immigrants now within the U.S. Ms. Hoffine said the administration believes the administration’s immigration moves “are consistent with the actions taken by presidents of both parties, the laws passed by Congress, and the decisions of the Supreme Court.”
Texas urged the justices not to hear an appeal on the injunction while additional proceedings on the program were pending in the lower courts.
”That the executive possesses enforcement discretion and faces resource constraints does not mean the executive has inherent power to grant lawful presence and eligibility for work permits to over four million unauthorized aliens,” Texas said in its brief, referring to the president.”
Groups advocating for immigrants hailed the court’s move. “Today’s order from the Supreme Court raises the welcome and important prospect that this politically-motivated lawsuit will no longer hold up the president’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a group representing immigrants challenging the lower court holdings.
An early summer ruling would put it at the start of a long general election season. Traditionally, both parties have held nominating conventions in late August or early September, kicking off a fall general election campaign. This year, the parties host their conventions much earlier.
Even if the court affirms Mr. Obama’s immigration actions by early summer, the administration will only have several months to roll out the program before his successor is chosen and sworn in.
If the court affirms that Mr. Obama’s actions on immigration were legal, a Republican administration could undo any changes because they were done through executive order instead of legislation. And in the event of a loss, Republican candidates on the stump are likely to campaign on the issue.
GOP candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have taken a hard line against illegal immigration, with Mr. Trump promising to deport the millions of immigrants in the country without legal status.
The three Democrats in the president race have staked out positions in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders have also condemned the Obama administration’s increased efforts to deport a group of Central American migrants.
Republican presidential candidates offered no immediate reaction to the court’s move. Democrats quickly tweeted their support of the Obama administration position.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com