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States Highlight Congressional Power in Immigration Case

Argue Obama's defense of actions was "dangerously broad" concept of executive power

Border Patrol agents ride along the U.S.-Mexican Border. Texas and other states argue the Obama administration overreached on immigration executive actions. (CQ Roll Call)
Border Patrol agents ride along the U.S.-Mexican Border. Texas and other states argue the Obama administration overreached on immigration executive actions. (CQ Roll Call)

Texas and 25 other states argued in a Supreme Court brief filed Monday that the Obama administration flouted Congress with executive actions that could give benefits to millions of undocumented immigrants.  

The 77-page brief comes ahead of oral arguments in the high-stakes legal challenge to President Barack Obama’s actions announced in November 2014. The actions are on hold while the states pursue their legal challenge that the policy shift is an overreach of executive power.  

The states’ brief argues that the Obama administration defense of the immigration actions “is a dangerously broad conception of executive power; if left unchecked, it could allow future executives to dismantle other duly enacted statutes.”  

The Supreme Court will decide the case before the end of the term, most likely in June — in the heat of a presidential campaign season. The case could determine whether Obama ever gets to implement the actions. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 18.  

The actions defer deportation for undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents, under a program known as DAPA. The actions would also expand a similar program, called DACA, for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.  

The states highlight how Congress never gave the president “carte blanche to grant lawful presence to any alien it chooses to remove.” DAPA makes undocumented immigrants eligible for significant benefits such as Medicare, Social Security and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  

“Yet Congress in 1996 amended immigration statutes expressly to deny benefits to unlawfully present aliens whom the executive chooses not to remove,” the brief states. “DAPA flouts that congressional directive.”  

The administration wants the Supreme Court to reverse a federal appeals court’s decision to block implementation of the executive actions nationwide.  

A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, in a 2-1 decision in November, declined to lift an injunction issued in that lawsuit by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen.  

The injunction maintains the status quo on national immigration policies until the legal challenge from the states is decided.  

The 5th Circuit majority wrote that Texas has a legal right to challenge the federal government’s actions because states could face millions of dollars in costs if the immigrants obtained driver’s licenses and other benefits.  

The 5th Circuit’s decision also rejected the administration’s argument that the injunction should not apply nationwide, in part because undocumented immigrants would be free to travel from states under the injunction to states not under the injunction.  

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