The court will likely hear the case in April, with a ruling before it adjourns in June. It provides the last chance the administration would be able to implement the program Obama announced in 2014, which affects upwards of 4 million people, before he leaves office next January.
Obama’s program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), would allow illegal immigrants in those categories to remain in the country and apply for work permits if they have been here for at least five years and have not committed felonies or repeated misdemeanors.
The administration says the program is simply a way for a government with limited resources to prioritize which illegal immigrants it will move first to deport.
But the executive action, taken after Congress failed to enact comprehensive immigration reform, was blocked by lower courts when Texas and 25 other Republican-led states sued to stop it.
“DAPA is a crucial change in the nation’s immigration law and policy-and that is precisely why it could be created only by Congress, rather than unilaterally imposed by the Executive,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, R, said in a filing to the court.
The states said the program “would be one of the largest changes in immigration policy in our nation’s history,” and raises major issues involving the separation of powers and federalism.
The immigration issue has confounded a politically deadlocked Congress, and emerged as one of the major flash points of disagreement between the Democrats and Republicans running for president.
The administration contends that the states have no legal standing to sue because it is up to the federal government to set immigration policy and that the Department of Homeland Security did not violate federal statutes in devising the program.
Setting priorities about whom to deport is a practical response to the fact that Congress has given the administration only enough money to deport no more than about 400,000 of the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, the government contends.
In the administration’s petition to the court, U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said the lower courts had blocked “a federal immigration enforcement policy of great national importance, and has done so in violation of established limits on the judicial power. If left undisturbed, that ruling will allow states to frustrate the federal government’s enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.”
Verrilli said that lower court ruling “will force millions of people — who are not removal priorities under criteria the court conceded are valid, and who are parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents — to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families.”
A federal district court and then two panels of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans agreed with the states’ arguments. Both courts have kept the program from being implemented.
The case is United States v. Texas.
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