Supreme Court to Have Final Word on Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration

January 19, 2016

In 2014, President Obama issued a series of executive actions on immigration, many of which have already gone into effect, or are heading that way. However, the most high-profile actions, regarding deferred action (aka deportation relief) and temporary employment authorization for undocumented immigrants, have been tied up in the courts, with injuntions in place preventing their implementation. Now appears that the Supreme Court will make a final decision on both the legality of the deferred action programs. From Dara Lind at

“At the Supreme Court, it’s generally assumed that the four liberal justices will side with the Obama administration, and it’s entirely possible that swing vote Anthony Kennedy will side with them too. Supporters of the Obama administration are looking to the dissent in the Fifth Circuit case — written by the Democratic appointee on the panel — for a model of what they hope the Supreme Court decision will look like.

The dissent is a pretty straightforward defense of the deferred-action programs. It focuses on what the memo creating the deferred-action program says the program would do, while the majority (as well as Judge Hanen in his earlier ruling) focused on other evidence to predict whether the new programs would work that way in practice.

This is the heart of the legal dispute. Are the new deferred action programs actually discretionary? Or do they force agents to follow hard-and-fast rules for approving applications, and any talk of “discretion” is just a legal fig leaf?”

If the court fully upholds both programs, it would be an extremely significant accomplishment for a President who has been working on immigration reform for nearly 6 years, with much less to show for it than immigration supporters would have hoped.


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