U.S. Supreme Court Up-brief
Most of us know that the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is currently listening to or being talked at about illegal immigration, to include President Obama’s unprecedented action of “making new laws” even after he stated in excess of 22 different times that he knew he couldn’t.
Given the nature of the hearings I politely ask that during your reading please take notice of other issues that are currently muddying up the waters such as birthright citizenship and many other new or adopted laws that concern illegal immigration into the United States.
The Supreme Court’s conservatives, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, seemed skeptical Monday of Obama’s sweeping immigration executive actions that would shield 4.5 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation and make them eligible for work permits.
Two lower courts ruled that the “deferred action” programs were unconstitutional, and prevented them from being implemented pending the Supreme Court’s decision. The court, which lost its conservative firebrand Antonin Scalia in February, has been mostly kind to the president’s legacy — but it’s unclear if his luck will hold out in his final year in office.
In oral arguments in the case, Roberts asked Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to explain whether he believed a president could decide not to deport any immigrants at all. Verrilli said immigration law binds the executive to deport immigrants recently arrived at the border and those who commit crimes, but he stressed that Obama’s program, which is aimed at young unauthorized immigrants and the parents of U.S. citizens, is not that sweeping. “That’s a million miles from where we are now,” Verrilli said.
“It’s 4 million people from where we are now,” interrupted Justice Anthony Kennedy, one of the court’s conservatives who occasionally sides with the liberals. Kennedy added that he thinks the president is setting policy on his own, ignoring the will of Congress. “That’s just upside down,” he protested.
Both Roberts and Kennedy sided with the court’s liberals in the last major immigration case to reach the Supreme Court, over Arizona’s SB 1070 law. They affirmed the executive’s power to pursue its own immigration policies even when it inconveniences states.
But in Monday’s oral argument, both men asked questions that suggested they believe this case is different. If the court rules against the government, it could put in jeopardy Obama’s earlier program that has already protected from deportation 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children. That deferred action program is not being challenged, but if the court issues a broad ruling, it may undercut its status as well.
Verrilli maintained that Texas and 25 other states that joined its claim do not have the legal right, or standing, to sue the federal government. Texas is suing because the state allows people with deferred action status to apply for driver’s licenses. The state estimates it would spend millions of dollars if the estimated 500,000 people in its state who will be legalized under Obama’s programs apply for licenses.
The government says Texas could easily change its law, preventing people on deferred action from getting licenses. But Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito seemed to reject that argument, pointing out the government would probably sue Texas if it blocked immigrants from accessing licenses. Verrilli would not rule out that possibility, but maintained the state still did not have standing.
It’s not just the fate of millions of immigrants that hang in the balance. If the court strikes down the president’s immigration actions, it will be a reversal of recent trends. Let’s not leave out the amount of felons that Obama’s set free as well as the “playing with the numbers” regarding illegal’s caught at the border.
“Historically, immigration is an area where the Supreme Court has given the president a whole lot of deference,” said Jeff Rosen, president of the nonprofit National Constitution Center. If the court decides Obama overreached, “that will be a really dramatic holding.”
A decision is expected in June.