The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral argument today in a case that pits the president against 26 states over the issue of immigration. Who wins?
With the passing of Justice Scalia, you effectively have a stalemate,” says Dallas appellate attorney Chad Ruback. “You end up with four conservative justices and four liberal ones. And if they go the way one might think they would go, the trial court’s ruling – against the president – stands. And that means Texas wins and the president loses. Some background. Frustrated by Congress’s unwillingness to enact his immigration reform legislation, President Obama signed an executive order which would grant temporary legal status and work permits to all undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally prior to 2010 and have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. This would include over four million of the approximately eleven million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.
The State of Texas assembled a coalition of 26 states to mount a legal challenge to the president’s executive order, contending that the order exceeded the president’s authority. Last year, a federal trial court judge ruled against President Obama in this case and issued an injunction prohibiting the president’s order from being implemented. A federal court of appeals affirmed the trial court judge’s decision.
The Obama administration has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has historically given presidents broad discretion over who should be deported. The Supreme Court is conducting a hearing on the case today. At today’s hearing, the State of Texas is arguing that, while a president may have broad discretion with regard to deciding who should be deported, President Obama’s order exceeds the bounds of that discretion. While other presidents—including George H.W. Bush—have ordered that certain individuals not be deported, this is the first time that a president has ordered that everyone meeting certain criteria be spared from deportation. The State of Texas is also arguing that, by providing work permits (in addition to freedom from deportation), President Obama’s order should not be judged by the same liberal standard as simply an order deciding who should be deported. The provision of work permits is significant because, under existing U.S. law, a person who works with a valid work permit is automatically eligible for social security and Medicare benefits. The Supreme Court is now split evenly between four Republican-appointed justices and four Democrat-appointed justices. If all eight justices vote along party lines, President Obama’s order will not be implemented. However, there is certainly the possibility that one of the more moderate Republican-appointed justices will vote with the Supreme Court’s liberal faction.