Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Case Against Obama’s Immigration Executive Orders

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments in a case questioning the legal authority of President Barack Obama's 2014 executive actions on immigration, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The executive actions, issued by Obama in 2014, established the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and expanded DACA, which allows eligible undocumented immigrant youth a two-year reprieve from deportation and provides them with work permits. Requirements for program eligibility stipulate an undocumented immigrant must have obtained a high school diploma or GED, been honorably discharged from the military, or be currently enrolled in school on the date of application for deferred action.

The case, United States v. Texas, was brought on by 26 states (led by Texas) that argued the executive actions were an overreach of Obama's authority and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law that establishes how agencies can create regulations. In February 2015, a federal judge ruled in favor of the states in United States v. Texas, blocking the executive actions from taking place. A federal appeals court upheld that ruling.

The case before the Supreme Court focuses on whether states have the right to sue over the executive actions and whether the Obama administration circumvented the Administrative Procedure Act. The court is also looking at "a constitutional question that neither lower court entertained: Did the guidance violate a clause in the Constitution that says the President must 'take care' that laws are faithfully executed," CNN reports.

According to CNN, the court "appeared closely divided along ideological lines" during Monday's oral arguments from the states involved and conservative members of the House of Representatives, and the Obama administration. The Court currently has only eight justices following the death of Antonin Scalia in February, which "could impact the final result," as a split decision would result in the case being sent back to the Texas district court that blocked the programs to begin with, CNN reports.

But an even bigger impact on the executive actions, and the future of DACA, may be determined by the 2016 presidential election. Because the programs were put in place by executive action, the next president will have the option of continuing the programs, modifying them, or discontinuing them altogether.

Of the remaining major candidates, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said they would continue to support DACA and immigration reform that includes pathways to legalization, while Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have said they would end the programs included in Obama's executive orders. Republican John Kasich has not specifically said if he would continue DACA, but has advocated for the creation of pathways to legalization for undocumented immigrants.

During a webinar hosted Monday by the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good, University of Michigan doctoral student Kyle Southern encouraged advocates and higher education administrators to continue supporting undocumented students on their campuses. There is "real importance to tying equitable practices … to the institution's mission," Southern said.

Ruben Canedo, research and mobilization coordinator at the University of California-Berkeley, said during the webinar that it is "not just about making sure we are doing something about supporting undocumented students [through financial aid], but asking critical questions about creating institutional and sustainable efforts" that engage with undocumented students.


Publication Date: 4/19/2016

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