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Obama administration seeks immigration date at Supreme Court

November 10, 2015 by NCC Staff


The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it wants the Supreme Court to decide a dispute over the ability of President Barack Obama to issue executive orders about immigration.


US_Supreme_Court_Building-640“The Department disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s adverse ruling [on Monday] and intends to seek further review from the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the Justice Department.


On Monday, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s injunction which blocked President Obama’s executive orders on immigration from taking effect. In the case, Texas v. US, the three judge panel ruled 2-1 against the Obama administration’s efforts to establish one new federal immigration program and expand others.


The orders seek to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which gave prosecutorial discretion regarding the enforcement of immigration laws against “certain young people.” The orders would make millions more eligible for the program. The November 2014 executive action also established the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program (DAPA), which allows the parents of US citizens to remain “lawfully present” in the United States. The District Court determined that 4.3 million individuals would be eligible for lawful presence under DAPA.


Shortly after the announcement of these programs, Texas, along with 26 other states, sued the federal government with the goal of stopping the programs from being implemented. The first issue the lower courts had to decide was whether Texas, or any other state, could have standing in the case. To have standing, or the ability to bring suit. The district court determined that Texas did have standing to sue because of the financial hardship it would suffer by having to issue driver’s licenses to DAPA beneficiaries.


While it accepted that argument, the district court rejected Texas’ other argument for standing, which asserted that the state could sue on behalf of its citizens who would be facing economic competition from DAPA beneficiaries.


The lower court did not rule on the substantive constitutional and separation of powers claims made against the President’s actions, but rather granted an injunction, which prohibited the programs from taking effect until further notice. The Federal government appealed, arguing that states do not have standing to sue and that the injunction is “improper as a matter of law”. It claimed that Texas would not be harmed by issuing drivers licenses under DAPA, for any costs would be offset by other benefits to the state.


Writing for the majority, Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit Court rejected the federal government’s claims regarding standing, and affirmed the district court’s determination that Texas has the legal ability to bring suit against the action. Unlike the lower court, this recent decision went on to assess the executive action on substantive legal and constitutional grounds, and determined that this action exceeded the executive branch’s legal authority.


The majority explained that the statute which the Obama administration argued gave them the legal authority to implement these new programs, the Immigration and Naturalization Act did no such thing. They determined that the statute “flatly does not permit” the administration to unilaterally reclassify millions of individuals as being “lawfully present” and make them eligible for both federal and state benefits.


In a lone dissent, Judge Carolyn Dineen King wrote that deferred action decisions, like those exercised through DAPA, are the “quintessential exercises of prosecutorial discretion”. She explained that in Reno v. Am-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the Executive has broad powers of prosecutorial discretion with regard to immigration. Since the practice of prosecutorial discretion is itself unreviewable, Judge King wrote that the current case should have been dismissed and the injunction struck down.


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