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Published on April 19th, 2016 | by Robert Ong

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Supreme Court split on Obama Immigration Plan

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(Article from USA Today- Photo Pablo Martinez Monsaivais, AP)

 Supreme Court split on Obama immigration plan

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s effort to offer temporary protection from deportation to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants ran into opposition from conservative justices on the Supreme Court Monday, but the outcome of the case remained unclear.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy didn’t give much ground, as immigration rights advocates had hoped, on whether Texas has the right to sue the federal government and whether the president has the authority to go around Congress.
“What we’re doing is defining the limits of discretion” for who the government can and cannot deport, Kennedy told U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. “And it seems to me that that is a legislative, not an executive, act.”
But the court’s more liberal justices said Obama’s deferred-action program merely tells undocumented immigrants who qualify that, “you will not be deported unless we change our minds,” Justice Elena Kagan said.
The immigration battle was waged on two fronts before the court: The Obama administration fought with Texas and 25 other states as well as with the House of Representatives, which previously blocked the president’s effort to confer legal status to some of the nation’s more than 11 million illegal immigrants.

And it occurred in the midst of a presidential election in which Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have promised to crack down and deport the same people that Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders want to help.

Much of the debate before the eight-member court, shorthanded since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, focused on whether the program would grant undocumented immigrants “lawful presence” — a phrase originally used by the federal government, but which Verrilli insisted has no meaning in immigration law.

“That phrase, ‘lawful presence,’ has caused a terrible amount of confusion in this case,” Verrilli said. “We are not trying to change anybody’s legal status.”

Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito didn’t buy that explanation. “How is it possible to lawfully work in the United States without lawfully being in the United States?” Alito asked. “I’m just talking about the English language. I just don’t understand it.”

The case also could be decided on more narrow grounds: whether Texas even has the right to sue, based solely on its prediction that it would have to spend money issuing driver’s licenses to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who receive the three-year reprieve from possible deportation.

“The bottom line is if we’re going to have to issue more driver’s licenses, it’s going to cost more money,” said Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller.

Roberts appeared to debunk speculation he would oppose Texas’ right to bring the lawsuit within minutes of the debate getting under way. Noting that the administration claims Texas does not have to issue the driver’s licenses, he said, “You would sue them, wouldn’t you?”

Supreme Court split on Obama immigration plan


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