Another major test at the Supreme Court is brewing. This time it’s on the contentious issue of immigration and President Obama’s use of executive power. An executive action last year to shield as many as 5 million immigrants from deportations was launched by Obama. However, it has been on hold ever since a federal judge ruled that Texas and 25 other states have a legitimate basis to challenge the program. Monday The Hill reports the issue has moved to the Supreme Court and it is expected that this spring it will be plunging into one of the most politically explosive issues of the 2016 campaign.
Stating Obama is making a mockery of the law with his immigration actions, Republicans are confident he will be handed a stinging defeat. On the other hand, arguing the president’s actions are well within his authority, Democrats are equally optimistic. Because the high court has traditionally given wide latitude to the Executive Branch when it comes to immigration law, some legal experts argue the administration will have the upper hand.
“This is an area where it is clearly the prerogative of the federal government to set immigration policy and the executive in particular to basically have the discretion on enforcement, which is what the president is arguing,” said Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, an associate professor at UCLA and director of the school’s North American Integration and Development Center.
Those states suing the administration see things a bit differently. The president’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs, they argue, would impose huge burdens, with additional costs for healthcare, law enforcement and education.
In Article II of the Constitution about the presidency, the words that say “he shall take Care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The Supreme Court hasn’t paid much attention to those words in many years. Buried below the State of the Union clause, and the business of receiving “Ambassadors and other public Ministers,” the words lack resonance; they sound polite.
But as the Washington Post points out, the “take care” clause meaning when traced back through hundreds of years of history and translated into today’s colloquial English is indeed a command: They mean “Mr. President, don’t act like a king” – administer the law, but don’t dispense with it or change it. The court surprised everyone by dusting off the clause and asking for arguments about whether, in doing so, the president had “faithfully” executed the nation’s immigration laws.
Of course, Obama administration lawyers regard the Constitutional question as absurd. The president followed the law, they say. He didn’t change it. But those states that are suing think otherwise. Texas and 25 other states believe they have a smoking gun: after announcing the immigration “guidance” on dreamers, Obama came out and said: “I just took an action to change the law.”
WaPo explains that just because the court asks the question does not mean it will answer it. It’s long shot. If it does answer it, and if it answers it broadly, the decision could alter the presidency in ways neither Obama nor his successors will like.
According to IBTimes, several politicians responded to the news last week that the Supreme Court would review the challenges against Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Running for the Democratic nomination for president, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stated,
“I am delighted that the Supreme Court agreed to review the lower court ruling against President Obama’s executive order on immigration. The president did exactly the right thing when he took action to protect Dreamers and the parents of children who are citizens or legal permanent residents,” Sanders said in a statement Tuesday. “I am confident the president has the legal authority to take this bold action. Clearly the best form of action is for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to put undocumented people on a path toward citizenship. But if Congress fails to act, as president I would uphold and expand the president’s action.”
The Obama administration has said it will move quickly to enact the policy before the president leaves office next January if the Supreme Court allows Obama’s actions to remain in effect. Democratic presidential candidates have said they would continue the program, although most Republicans want to get rid of it and move in the opposite direction. Republicans in Congress and in the 2016 presidential campaign have said Obama is overreaching with his executive actions.