NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday over immigration actions which were stricken down by the lower courts.
The Obama administration’s executive actions would allow many undocumented workers to be able to stay in the U.S. for an additional three years without fear of deportation and to work legally during that time.
However, the lower courts struck down the actions in a move Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., calls inhumane.
“We ought to be deporting felons and criminals, not hard-working families and that’s what the Supreme Court has an opportunity to do,” Blumenthal told WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron.
Blumenthal added that there are too many families with children and jobs who pay taxes and are simply seeking the American dream, saying they should be allowed to stay here and do so.
Texas and 25 other states sued to block Obama’s initiatives soon after they were announced, and lower courts have ruled in their favor. The programs have never taken effect.
The states, joined by congressional Republicans, argue that Obama doesn’t have the power to effectively change immigration law. When he announced the measures 17 months ago, Obama said he was acting under his own authority because Congress had failed to overhaul the immigration system. The Senate had passed legislation on a bipartisan vote, but House Republicans refused to put the matter to a vote.
“Fundamentally, we don’t think the president has the statutory or constitutional authority to issue these executive actions,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
House Republicans told the court that Obama is claiming the power “to decree that millions of individuals may live, work and receive benefits in this country even though federal statutes plainly prohibit them from doing so.”
The administration and immigration advocates say the immigration orders are neither unprecedented nor even unusual. Rather, they say, Obama’s programs build on past efforts by Democratic and Republican administrations to use discretion in deciding whom to deport.
The court’s last major immigration decision, the 2012 case Arizona v. U.S., lends some support to this view.
“A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials. Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. “Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime.”
The administration and its supporters said the challenged programs do not offer blanket protection, but depend on case-by-case reviews. The protection from deportation also would be temporary, for three years.
“It’s not permanent status, not a green card, not a path to citizenship. It doesn’t get you a ticket into a voting booth. At best, it’s a tolerated presence,” said Angela Maria Kelley, an immigration expert at the Center for American Progress.
The programs also could be revoked by the next president, as the Republican contenders have promised. That might leave people who have provided the government with information about themselves in greater peril of being deported.
Immigration advocates acknowledged that some people might not be willing to raise their hands until they know the outcome of the election.
The Supreme Court case might not even address the issue of executive authority if the justices determine that Texas and the other states don’t have the right to challenge it in federal court. Such a resolution, which could attract support from both liberal and conservative justices, could enable the court to sidestep the potentially divisive details over immigration and avoid a 4-4 tie following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February.
A decision in favor of the administration would allow the programs to take effect in the waning months of Obama’s presidency. A loss or even a tie vote would block them for the foreseeable future.
A decision in U.S. v. Texas, 15-674, is expected by late June.
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