Supreme Court re­jects Obama plan for amnesty

Im­mi­gra­tion weighs heavy in election

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The Supreme Court kicked off its new year by re­ject­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s at­tempt to re­vive his de­por­ta­tion amnesty, leav­ing stand a June rul­ing that left a na­tion­wide in­junc­tion in place and leaves the big im­mi­gra­tion ques­tions up to vot­ers in Novem­ber.

With­out com­ment, the jus­tices re­fused Mr. Obama’s re­quest for a re­hear­ing of the case, on which the jus­tices had dead­locked 4-4.

Im­mi­grant rights groups howled in protest, and said they’ll try to rally vot­ers to pun­ish Don­ald Trump, the GOP’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, and to back Democrats who they hope will en­sure a more lib­eral bench is in place be­fore the is­sue re­turns to the high court.

But for now, Mr. Obama’s plans to grant three-year work per­mits and stays of de­por­ta­tion to as many as 5 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants re­main blocked.

“The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s un­prece­dented at­tempt to re­write fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law failed yet again today,” said Car­rie Sev­erino, chief coun­sel at the Ju­di­cial Cri­sis Net­work. “It’s fit­ting that the Texas im­mi­gra­tion case, which typ­i­fies this ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­lent­less over­reach, met its end in a word­less de­nial by the Supreme Court.”

The White House said Mr. Obama was “dis­ap­pointed,” but said it will push ahead with the rest of his im­mi­gra­tion plans. Spokesman Josh Earnest said the rul­ing does not af­fect the en­force­ment pri­or­i­ties Mr. Obama de­creed for im­mi­gra­tion agents, which ef­fec­tively leaves more than 9 mil­lion of the es­ti­mated 11 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants out of any dan­ger of be­ing de­ported.

Mr. Obama had hoped to go fur­ther with his 2014 amnesty, call­ing for a “de­ferred ac­tion” pro­gram that would have granted the three-year work per­mit and an of­fi­cial stay of de­por­ta­tion. The work per­mit would have helped il­le­gal im­mi­grants get So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers and driver’s li­censes, en­abling them to come out of the shad­ows.

But Texas led 25 other states in su­ing, ar­gu­ing that the pres­i­dent was break­ing the law. U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Ha­nen in Texas ruled against Mr. Obama, is­su­ing an in­junc­tion just two days be­fore the amnesty was due to be­gin, and the 5th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in New Or­leans up­held that in­junc­tion.

The court rulings don’t af­fect a smaller 2012 amnesty Mr. Obama an­nounced for so-called Dream­ers, and which re­mains in ef­fect.

GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump has said he would re­voke that 2012 amnesty, pulling ten­ta­tive le­gal sta­tus from nearly 750,000 young adult il­le­gal im­mi­grants who have qual­i­fied. Mr. Trump has also vowed to stiffen en­force­ment of ex­ist­ing laws and to triple the size of the de­por­ta­tion agency, which could re­sult in send­ing far more il­le­gal im­mi­grants back home.

Demo­cratic op­po­nent Hil­lary Clinton, mean­while, has said she’ll go even fur­ther than Mr. Obama, flex­ing ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to try to grant a de­por­ta­tion amnesty to mil­lions more peo­ple.

Who­ever wins will also name the re­place­ment for Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia, tilt­ing the court in a way that would likely af­fect the out­come of fu­ture im­mi­gra­tion cases.

“We are 36 days away from the elec­tions, and the stakes keep get­ting higher for Latino and im­mi­grant fam­i­lies,” said Ce­sar J. Blanco, interim di­rec­tor at the Latino Vic­tory Fund, who vowed pun­ish­ment for the GOP. “Both in the courts and in Congress, Repub­li­cans have at­tacked us and suc­ceeded at stalling any and all progress to pro­tect our fam­i­lies, leav­ing mil­lions in limbo and fear­ing de­por­ta­tion. On Nov. 8 we must come out in full force and hold Repub­li­cans ac­count­able, send­ing a strong mes­sage de­mand­ing re­spect and ac­tion.”

Ac­tivists in­sisted Mr. Obama was on solid le­gal foot­ing with his amnesty. They pointed as prece­dent to much smaller grants of de­ferred ac­tion by Pres­i­dent Rea­gan and Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush.

But Judge Ha­nen said Mr. Obama broke pro­ce­dural law by or­der­ing the changes with­out go­ing through a no­tice-and-com­ment pe­riod, and the 5th Cir­cuit ruled against Mr. Obama even more broadly, find­ing he was break­ing im­mi­gra­tion law.

Those judges never grap­pled with the big con­sti­tu­tional ques­tions of whether the pres­i­dent was steal­ing pow­ers the Con­sti­tu­tion in­tended to be wielded by Congress.

For years Mr. Obama him­self in­sisted he didn’t have the power to grant such a broad amnesty — but re­versed his stance af­ter his party suf­fered mas­sive losses in the 2014 election.

The court’s 4-4 de­ci­sion ear­lier this year could have been even worse for the pres­i­dent.

Had Jus­tice Scalia not died be­fore the case was de­cided, it’s likely the court would have ruled 5-4 against Mr. Obama in June, is­su­ing an opin­ion that would have amounted to a stern re­buke of his ex­pan­sive claims of pres­i­den­tial pow­ers, ex­tend­ing well beyond im­mi­gra­tion.

In­stead, the 4-4 dead­lock means there is no high court prece­dent, and makes it eas­ier for the court to re­visit the mat­ter in the fu­ture.

For now, il­le­gal im­mi­grants who’d been hop­ing for re­lief un­der the amnesty have tried to carve out a new le­gal bat­tle­ground.

One il­le­gal im­mi­grant who was granted the three-year amnesty, then had it re­voked, has filed a case in fed­eral court in New York ar­gu­ing that nei­ther Judge Ha­nen nor the 5th Cir­cuit had na­tion­wide ju­ris­dic­tion.

That man, Martin Jonathan Batalla Vi­dal, has asked a judge to or­der Home­land Se­cu­rity to re­new his three-year amnesty de­spite the other court rulings, say­ing he wasn’t part of the Texas law­suit.

“Mr. Batalla Vi­dal had no op­por­tu­nity to con­test the re­vo­ca­tion of his three-year em­ploy­ment au­tho­riza­tion or to vin­di­cate his rights,” his lawyers said in their court fil­ing.

Amer­ica’s Voice, an im­mi­grant rights group, urged more il­le­gal im­mi­grants to file sim­i­lar cases to test the bounds of Judge Ha­nen’s rul­ing.

The group also said at­tor­neys gen­eral sym­pa­thetic to the il­le­gal im­mi­grants’ cause should con­sider fil­ing chal­lenges with judges out­side the 5th Cir­cuit.

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