It could be that the chickens are finally coming home to roost in The White House.
In November 2014, Barack Obama signed an executive order to defer deportation for as many as five million undocumented immigrants. This effectively amounted to granting amnesty from having broken U.S. immigration law.
The Tuesday announcement that the Supreme Court will hear the administration’s appeal on one of the most contentious issues of Barack Obama’s presidency. They will rule on that executive action that many have complained about.
The timeline runs over three months, with arguments scheduled to begin in April and a final ruling from the Supremes in late June. The case is sure to fire up both sides of the immigration debate, and we will probably hear a lot more about it in the presidential campaign.
Legal wrangling was been going on for some time, and initially a federal appeals court ruled that Obama overstepped his authority in ordering federal departments not to uphold the law. At that time, opponents were happy to have prevented millions of illegal immigrants applying for a reprieve from deportation and to get work permits.
14 months after that effective amnesty was announced, it has not yet taken effect, due to the legal wrangling. And speaking of wrangling, it was Texas and 25 other states that brought the original lawsuit, almost all led by Republicans.
At that time, February 2015, it was U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen who stopped the executive order taking effect. He said “The genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle,” agreeing with the plaintiffs’ argument that legalizing the presence of millions of people is a “virtually irreversible” action. [NBC News]
Judge Hanen also said the Obama administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was happy with the judge’s ruling. After that decision, he said, “This decision is a victory for the rule of law in America and a crucial first step in reining in President Obama’s lawlessness.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Obama had not upheld the constitution he promised to defend, and overreached by trying to proclaim amnesty through executive order. He said, “President Obama abdicated his responsibility to uphold the United States Constitution when he attempted to circumvent the laws passed by Congress via executive fiat, and Judge Hanen’s decision rightly stops the president’s overreach in its tracks.”
Obama’s legal team was not happy. They said the decision of the appeals court was “unprecedented and momentous,” and it would both strip the president of longstanding powers and give states an unwarranted right to challenge federal immigration policies in court in seeking a Supreme Court review.
What they didn’t say is that the Constitution does not give the president such a power.
Here is what U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in the appeal, “The court of appeals’ judgment enjoins nationwide a federal policy of great importance to federal law enforcement, to many states, and to millions of families with longstanding and close connections with this country.”
Since becoming president, Obama has not bothered to work harder with the fractious congress many times, and he has often acted without congressional approval to change laws.
Acting on his own, Obama’s executive order would have allowed people whose children are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and who meet other requirements, to get relief from deportation for three years.
The president and his team say his executive order is simply a broader exercise of his accepted power to set priorities to decide who should be deported. Understandably, many lawmakers and legal scholars dispute the Obama team’s assertion. In their opinion, the executive action is the equivalent of providing an unfair amnesty for millions of people who broke U.S. law to enter or remain in the country.
Obama has allowed and even encouraged people to enter the U.S. illegally, and it has been reported, clandestinely brought in people from the Middle East, mainly Syria.
Needless to say, with massive unemployment and the noticeable presence of many millions of people illegally in the country consuming the resources that should be for citizens and others legally in the country, immigration is a top of mind issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Many pundits say the immigration issue could well influence the political loyalties of Hispanics, a fast-growing ethnic group.
In challenging Obama’s executive orders, Texas and its allies say federal immigration laws set out detailed rules for deportation, but those same laws do not give the president and authority to subvert those laws and shield such a large category of people. For that reason, an major decisions on immigration policy, which the executive order is, “must include the people’s elected representatives in Congress.”
The appeal by the State of Texas argued that “Executive agencies are not entitled to rewrite immigration laws.” Strangely, 15 other states and the District of Columbia back the administration in this case, effectively handing over their legislative power to The White House.
The Obama team is pursuing the same approach in ‘United States v. Texas, 15-674’ they used to thwart Sheriff Joe Arpaio and others who wanted to contest the validity of his birth certificate. They say the states do not have standing to appeal against his executive orders.
Obama administration lawyers contend that claims by the states are barred by the U.S. Administrative Procedure Act. That act only allows suits over actions taken by federal agencies in particular circumstances, even if a challenger has standing.
Barack Obama has issued just over 220 executive orders, which many people think is too many, but he was outdone by George W. Bush (291), Bill Clinton (364), and by the most prolific Executive Order signer of all – Franklin D. Roosevelt (3,721).