New York Times
By Adam Liptak and Michael Shear
April 18, 2016
The Supreme Court on Monday will hear a major challenge to President Obama’s plan to shield millions of immigrants from deportation and allow them to work. The case, brought by 26 states, may produce a significant ruling on presidential power and immigration policy in the midst of a presidential campaign in which both issues have been front and center.
The case, United States v. Texas, No. 15-674, is being heard by an eight-member court, and the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, has altered the judicial dynamic. A 4-4 deadlock is now a live possibility, one that would leave in place an appeals court ruling that blocks the plan without setting a Supreme Court precedent.
When the court agreed in January to hear the case, it raised the possibility of a broad decision by taking the unusual step of asking the parties to address whether Mr. Obama had violated his constitutional obligations to enforce the nation’s laws. This month, the court granted a lawyer for the House of Representatives, which supports the challengers, 15 minutes to present arguments on that issue.
But a broad ruling on the scope of presidential power seems unlikely to emerge from a short-handed court.
Here is a look at the parties and issues in the case:
What does the president’s plan do?
It allows more than four million unauthorized immigrants who are parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents to apply for a program sparing them from deportation and allowing them to work.
What do the states challenging the plan say?
They have several arguments: that the Obama administration should have provided notice and sought comments before announcing the plan, that Congress did not authorize it and that Mr. Obama has violated his constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
What is the administration’s response?
The administration says the Constitution and the immigration laws give the president great discretion in deciding whom to deport and that work authorization and similar benefits have long been an automatic consequence of decisions not to deport particular people. The administration adds that Texas and the other states lack standing to sue over the plan because they have not been injured by it.
How have the lower courts ruled?
They have ruled against the administration, blocking the plan. Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, Tex., based his ruling on the Obama administration’s failure to give notice and seek public comments on its new program. A divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, affirmed that ruling and added a broader one. The program, it said, also exceeded Mr. Obama’s statutory authority.
Both courts said Texas had standing because it would face budget shortfalls from issuing driver’s licenses to people affected by the program.
How long will the arguments last?
They are scheduled to start shortly after 10 a.m. and to run for 90 minutes instead of the usual hour. In major cases like this one, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. often gives lawyers extra time.
Who is arguing?
The administration is represented by its top appellate lawyer, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who has 30 minutes. He will be followed for 15 minutes by Thomas A. Saenz, a lawyer with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who represents immigrants affected by the plan. Texas’ solicitor general, Scott A. Keller, will then argue for 30 minutes on behalf of the states challenging the plan. He will be followed for 15 minutes by Erin E. Murphy, a lawyer for the House of Representatives.
What happens next?
If the court rules in favor of Mr. Obama, the administration has vowed to quickly start signing up the several million undocumented workers who could qualify for work permits and protection from deportation. If the court sides with the states, or divides 4-4, the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s immigration actions will remain frozen, probably through the rest of his presidency. That could leave its ultimate fate to his successor.
What does this mean for Mr. Obama?
The president came into office promising to overhaul immigration laws, in large part to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows. But he was repeatedly blocked by Republicans in Congress even after his administration boosted deportations. Frustrated, Mr. Obama took executive action. If the court blocks those actions, he is likely to leave office without much of an immigration legacy and having failed to make good on his promises.
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