SCOTUS to review immigration reform

January 28th, 2016



Adding another highly contentious case to their 2016 docket, the United States Supreme Court announced Tuesday, Jan. 19 that they will review United States v. Texas, assessing the legality of President Barack Obama’s immigration reform orders.


Fourteen months ago, President Obama proposed to make it easier for the millions of people living in the United States illegally to remain in the country and acquire work. Aside from individuals who had committed felonies and repeated misdemeanors, the Obama administration said that immigrants who resided in the United States for at least five years could apply for work permits, according to The Washington Post.


Ingrid Vaca

Saying that he wanted to “deport felons, not families,” Obama ordered the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to create a more encompassing one: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA. According to The Washington Post, the directives provided law enforcement officials with tactics and guidelines that aimed to improve militant deportation practices. Now, the president’s ability to make these sort of legal decisions is being put to the test.


Texas and two dozen other states believe that decisive immigration policy should be created within the walls of the Capitol building, not by a unilateral executive action. However, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated the president’s actions were “clearly within the confines of his authority as President of the United States,” according to The New York Times.


The differences in legal opinion led to a series of lower court cases which consistently sided with the states, imploring the Obama administration to bypass review by the full Fifth Circuit Court and appeal the rulings to the Supreme Court in the  hopes that the  justices will uphold his authority before he leaves office.


The central legal question to be answered by the Court, according to The Washington Post, is whether Obama was legally sound when using his executive authority to bypass congressional gridlock, or if he has violated constitutional boundaries and has imposed restrictions that require approval from Congress. Additionally, the Court will be asked to decide whether the president’s actions have violated the Take Care Clause of the Constitution, which states that the president “shall take care that laws be faithfully executed.”


According to The Washington Post, the justices are also making the unusual decision to add their own questions to be answered in the case. These inquiries  include whether or not the states have the legal standing to sue the government in this instance, whether or not the President’s orders were legally issued, if the orders were, more generally, legal in the context of past immigration precedents, and whether or not the president violated the aforementioned Take Care Clause of the Constitution.


The decision, which will be issued in June, will be just one of the controversial decisions to be made by the Supreme Court this summer, which include the likes of abortion rights, affirmative action, contraception and religious liberties.


Editor’s Note: Information from The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico was used in this report.