SCOTUS Is the Last Chance for Obama’s Immigration Plans

The White House is hoping for a major Supreme Court ruling on immigration just months before the 2016 elections.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Sam Baker
Add to Briefcase
Sam Baker
Nov. 11, 2015, 5 a.m.

The Su­preme Court will prob­ably have the fi­nal say over wheth­er Pres­id­ent Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions on im­mig­ra­tion ever see the light of day—and its de­cision could upend one of the coun­try’s most po­lar­iz­ing polit­ic­al de­bates, just months be­fore the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.

The Justice De­part­ment an­nounced Tues­day that it would ask the Su­preme Court to settle a dis­pute over Obama’s im­mig­ra­tion pro­grams, set­ting the stage for just the sort of elec­tion-year drama the justices of­ten say they’d prefer to avoid.

Much like the Court’s 2012 case on Obama­care, the im­mig­ra­tion chal­lenge could put the justices in a sens­it­ive po­s­i­tion—de­cid­ing the fu­ture of a deeply po­lar­iz­ing policy just as the coun­try’s par­tis­an fevers are at their highest, with real con­sequences for mil­lions of people in the bal­ance.

The Court doesn’t have to ac­cept the im­mig­ra­tion case, but many leg­al ex­perts ex­pect that it will. It also wouldn’t have to make a de­cision be­fore the elec­tion. But a quick turn­around at the high court that may be the only hope for sup­port­ers of Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions.

“Ba­sic­ally, this is a policy dis­pute mas­quer­ad­ing as a law­suit,” said Dav­id Leo­pold, a former pres­id­ent of the Amer­ic­an Im­mig­ra­tion Law­yers As­so­ci­ation who rep­res­ents im­mig­rants and sup­ports Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions.

The case on its way to the Su­preme Court is part of a chal­lenge to the De­ferred Ac­tion for Par­ents of Amer­ic­ans and Law­ful Per­man­ent Res­id­ents pro­gram, which would al­low roughly 4.3 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants to re­main in the U.S. leg­ally.

Re­pub­lic­ans have railed against DAPA as a pres­id­en­tial power grab, and its im­ple­ment­a­tion has been blocked in the courts. On Monday, the 5th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals up­held the in­junc­tion that has kept DAPA on ice.

The lower court has not ruled on DAPA’s leg­al mer­its; both sides agreed to put that de­bate aside while fo­cus­ing on wheth­er the pro­gram could take ef­fect in the mean­time, Leo­pold said.

DAPA’s sup­port­ers largely ex­pec­ted the 5th Cir­cuit to up­hold the in­junc­tion, but had grown rest­less over the past few months about how long the Court was tak­ing to is­sue its de­cision; the longer the 5th Cir­cuit took, the harder it would be to se­cure a Su­preme Court rul­ing be­fore Obama leaves of­fice.

And ad­voc­ates be­lieve the polit­ics of a pre-elec­tion rul­ing, whatever it says, will work in their fa­vor. A rul­ing for the ad­min­is­tra­tion would al­low Obama to be­gin im­ple­ment­ing DAPA and could make it harder for a Re­pub­lic­an suc­cessor to cut off the pro­gram, Leo­pold said, while a rul­ing against the ad­min­is­tra­tion could help re­in­vig­or­ate the push for a com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion bill.

“For the Re­pub­lic­ans, it’s ter­rible. … I don’t see how it helps them either way,” Leo­pold said.

On the oth­er hand, a Su­preme Court rul­ing up­hold­ing the DAPA in­junc­tion would largely vin­dic­ate Re­pub­lic­ans’ claims that the pro­gram was an over­reach by Pres­id­ent Obama. And Hil­lary Clin­ton has said she would reach even fur­ther.

The 5th Cir­cuit up­held the DAPA in­junc­tion Monday partly be­cause it de­term­ined that the policy’s chal­lengers had a good chance of suc­ceed­ing on the mer­its. The states, led by Texas, had shown that DAPA would hurt them, the court ruled, and were likely to per­suade the courts that DAPA’s policy changes fall out­side the ex­ec­ut­ive branch’s au­thor­ity.

Fed­er­al law “flatly does not per­mit the re­clas­si­fic­a­tion of mil­lions of il­leg­al ali­ens as law­fully present and thereby make them newly eli­gible for a host of fed­er­al and state be­ne­fits, in­clud­ing work au­thor­iz­a­tion,” the 5th Cir­cuit said.

What We're Following See More »
DEFENSE AND LABOR-HHS TO BE COMBINED
Senate Turns to Approps This Week
50 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"As the August session continues, senators will turn their attention in earnest to a measure that combines two spending bills covering appropriations for four Cabinet departments, led by the Department of Defense. ... The combined Senate bill includes the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations package, as well. That bill is traditionally among the most difficult to get across the Senate floor because of predictable partisan debates about social policy issues."

Source:
INTENDS TO PROTECT OTHER OFFICIALS
Brennan May Sue Trump Over Clearance
54 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"Former CIA director John O. Brennan said Sunday that he is willing to take President Trump to court to prevent other current and former officials from having their security clearances revoked, escalating a battle over whether the president is misusing the power of his office to retaliate against opponents."

Source:
REACTION TO REVOCATION OF BRENNAN'S CLEARANCE
175 Former NatSec Officials Now Sign Letter Rebuking Trump
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

The national-security protest letter-writing campaign continues, with 175 former top U.S. officials rebuking President Donald Trump for stripping former CIA chief John Brennan of his security clearance last week.

Source:
SERVED 16 YEARS IN THE HOUSE
Former. Rep. Leonard Boswell Dies at 84
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Former Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) died Friday at age 84; he “was hospitalized for complications from a form of cancer known as pseudomyxoma peritonei.” Boswell served in the House from 1997-2013, losing to now-former Rep. Tom Latham (R).

Source:
"A CASE ABOUT LIES"
Manafort Case Moves to Closing Arguments
4 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login