President Barack Obama will finally have his day in front of the Supreme Court over his immigration executive actions. The Supreme Court justices agreed on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016 to add Obama’s immigration case to their 2016 docket. The court will hear oral arguments in April and will make their decision in June before they close their term. If the Supreme Court rules in Obama’s favor, his programs could begin before the president leaves office, providing amnesty for nearly five million illegal immigrants and allowing them to work legally in the country.
President Obama wanted his executive actions to go into effect before he leaves office and wanted the case resolved this docket year for the Supreme Court before the 2016 general election. The immigration executive actions are a key element to the president’s legacy. Now that the Supreme Court is hearing the case, immigration will become a bigger issue in the presidential campaign. So far Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has pledged to depart the country’s 11.7 illegal immigrants and build a wall along the Mexican border to prevent further illegal immigration, Meanwhile the Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both agree that Congress should pass a comprehensive immigration reform.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who is leading the court battle against the action praised the Justices decision, saying it “recognizes the importance of the separation of powers.” Paxton continued in his statement, “As federal courts have already ruled three times, there are limits to the President’s authority, and those limits enacted by Congress were exceeded when the President unilaterally sought to grant ‘lawful presence’ to more than 4 million unauthorized aliens who are in this country unlawfully. The Court should affirm what President Obama said himself on more than 20 occasions: that he cannot unilaterally rewrite congressional laws and circumvent the people’s representatives.” Immigration group are equally excited about the Supreme Court hearing the case.
The Obama Administration represented by the Justice Department filed an appeal to the Supreme Court on Nov. 20, 2015, requesting an “expedited review.” The Justice Department filed a 35-page brief as part of their appeal. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. wrote the brief for the Justice Department and justified the review because “A divided court of appeals has upheld an unprecedented nationwide injunction against implementing a federal immigration enforcement policy of great national importance, and has done so in violation of established limits on the judicial power.”
Of all the executive actions President Obama pushed through, he has not been able to do so with his immigration-related actions that Republicans have highly objected. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 10 that they are upholding the injunction a Texas federal judge implemented earlier this year. In a 2-1 ruling, the court stated that President Obama “lacked the authority” to shield “one-third” of illegal immigrants through an executive action. The court said Obama’s program would “grant lawful presence and work authorization to any illegal alien in the United States.” The court had agreed to hear the “appeal on an expedited basis” in March while oral arguments were conducted on July 10.
After the ruling, the White House issued a statement indicating the next step would be asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. The White House wrote, “The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws. This lawsuit is preventing people who have been part of our communities for years from working on the books, contributing to our economy by paying taxes on that work, and being held accountable.”
A Federal Appeals court ruled against President Barack Obama and the Justice Department representing him on May 26, 2015. In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Obama administration’s request to lift an injunction blocking the president’s executive actions regarding immigration. The three-judge panel in New Orleans consisted of Judge Jerry Smith appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan, Smith also wrote the opinion. Joining him was Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, who was appointed by Republican George W. Bush. The dissension came from Obama’s appointee, Judge Stephen A. Higginson.
In February, a Texas federal judge granted the requests of 26 states to block those executive actions with a temporary injunction. Late Feb. 16, 2015, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, issued the injunction just before the first part of Obama’s orders from going into effect on Wednesday, Feb. 18. Judge Hanen reasoned that the administration did not “comply” with Administrative Procedures Act’s “requirements.” Hanen said that that the executive actions would place a heavy burden on the states’ resources.
The Justice Department argued President Obama acted in “prosecutorial discretion” and that the administration was issuing “general statement of policy,” not rules, which is exempt from the “notice and comment” “requirement,” and, therefore, Judge Hanen had no legal basis to block the actions. The Justice Department argued immigration is a federal issue not a concern of the states, and they had “no standing” to request the injunction. The Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 26 states in November when he was still Texas’ Attorney General. Arguments were held in January in Brownsville Texas.
The executive actions would have prevented nearly 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. The first part would have expanded on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program” (DACA), relating to immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children; only 270,000 will be affected. The injunction has to do with the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA), which protects the parents of U.S. citizens from deportations and allows them to defer deportation and legally work in the country; this part was supposed to commence in May 2015, and represents the bulk, 4.7 million illegal immigrants.
After Congress failed to pass a Senate bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill from 2013, President Obama decided to take matters in his own hands in November 2014, just as the newly elected Republican Congress warned him they would block its implementation because those orders went beyond the president’s Constitutional right. Still President Obama went ahead and expanded and created new programs, even taking applications months before the program was set to be implemented, without the knowledge of Congress.