United States v. Texas: Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Deferred Action Programs

April 25, 2016

In late 2014, after repeatedly trying to move immigration reform legislation through Congress, President Obama made good on his promise to do whatever was in his power to give needed changes to the U.S. immigration system. Almost immediately, lawsuits were filed challenging various aspects of President Obama’s executive orders, and one of those lawsuits – United States v. Texas – made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Which provisions are being challenged?

At stake are two deferred action programs: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expansions to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The original DACA program is not being challenged, and so shouldn’t be affected by any ruling. Neither DAPA nor the DACA expansions were ever put into effect – their enactment has been on hold pending resolution of the various lawsuits.

What is the basis for the challenge?

Texas is arguing that President Obama has exceeded his executive authority in granting legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants, and that the state will bear various costs (such as driver’s license processing) related to those immigrants being granted legal status.  Specifically, there are 2 main questions the Supreme Court will be addressing regarding the legality of the programs:

  1. Was DAPA a substantial regulatory change, which would have required the federal government to go through a series of steps (which it didn’t do) before putting the regulations in place?
  2. Does DAPA – by providing for formalized “lawful presence” and providing work permits for undocumented immigrants – go beyond the President’s executive authority?

The first question is just about process – did the federal government follow proper procedures with regard to DAPA. The 2nd question gets to the substance of DAPA. Should the administration lose on either question, DAPA and the expanded DACA will not be enacted during Obama’s term. A 4-4 split (a possibility because Scalia’s seat on the court has not been filled) would mean that the lower court decision – which was against the administration – would hold.

When will a decision be reached?

Arguments were heard last week, but a decision isn’t expected until the end of the current term, in late June.

Related Link: Who Will Be Eligible for the DAPA and expanded DACA programs?

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