Supreme Court clears path for DAPA ruling

Immigration lawAn immigration reform program introduced through an executive order signed by President Obama in late 2014, and then shortly after blocked through an appeals court injunction that resulted from a multi-state lawsuit, could soon start moving along within the wheels of justice. Beginning a journey through the courts in February of this year, the currently blocked Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) could be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court sometime in 2016 as justices on the high court rejected Texas attorneys’ request for a 30-day extension to file its opening brief.

If the Supreme Court had granted the extension request, the delay would have most likely prevented consideration of the case until at least the start of the court’s next term, which starts in October 2016. Under the Supreme Court’s normal scheduling practices, a delay of 30 days would have left DAPA off the current agenda. Instead, the court granted an eight-day extension to receive an opening brief from Texas attorneys.

Under the DAPA program, as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants who are the parents of U.S, citizens or legal permanent residents could be shielded from the threat of deportation, allowed to obtain work permits and also eligible for some public health benefits.

A Bloomberg story on the topic, United States v. Texas, 15-674, makes the point that the upcoming elections gives the case “added significance” as “Republican candidates routinely criticize Obama’s immigration policy.”

When the president announced his executive action more than a year ago, the state of Texas and 25 other states responded by challenging the move in court. A federal appeals court agreed last February that the president was overstepping his authority in a 2-1 decision. The decision halted the implementation of DAPA.

Lawyers at the Department of Justice, arguing for the Obama Administration, say Texas and the other states in the suit don’t have the legal right to challenge the program. Citing precedent, Department of Justice lawyers say past Supreme Court cases afford the president broad discretionary powers to set deportation priorities. Attorneys arguing for Texas, the Bloomberg story reports, plan to ask the Supreme Court to reject the federal appeal without a hearing.

Requests for extensions are part of the normal course of business in the courts, and judges routinely grant the requests. The denial of the Texas request for an extension might be seen by some immigration advocates as something of a victory in that a Supreme Court hearing on the case won’t necessarily be delayed for another year. The president’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, told the court in a letter that a delay would “would prolong for an additional year the disruption of federal immigration policy,” according to Bloomberg.

With the administration’s petition, filed on Nov. 20, the original due date of the response is Dec. 21.

Supreme Court justices have scheduled three private conferences in January in which they’ll discuss and schedule final cases to place on the docket, which runs through the spring. The justices will hear final arguments on cases in April.


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