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UNITED STATES v. TEXAS, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 15–674

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Case Summary

The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program, announced by Obama in November 2014, attempts to grant deferred action to illegal immigrants who are the parents of a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Obama’s program, when combined with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, would have delayed deportation of slightly less than half of the 11 million illegal aliens in the United States.

On February 16, 2015 however, the program was challenged in federal court by 26 states when the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction against the executive order. On February 23, 2015, the U.S government appealed the decision in the 5th Circuit, proposing that the Court could issue a partial stay that would allow every state except for Texas to start implementing DAPA. The Firth Circuit denied the Government’s request to stay on the grounds that the executive order violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and that the Government was not following Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directive. On the same day, the Court issued a separate order criticizing the federal government for granting three-year periods of deferred action to 108,081 individuals between the announcement of DAPA and the preliminary injunction, despite earlier statements made to the court by the Department of Justice that no action would be taken on these applications .

The Obama Administration then appealed the order for a preliminary injunction and asked the Fifth Circuit to stay the district court’s injunction pending appeal. Both of these were also denied by the Fifth Circuit. The circuit court affirmed the preliminary injunction and ordered the case back to the district court for trial.

The district court in turn, agreed that Texas has standing because of the cost of issuing drivers licenses to aliens, and that President Obama’s order violated the rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. Furthermore, the district court made found that the Immigration and Nationality Act “flatly does not permit” deferred action.

In November 2015, the Justice Department took the case to the Supreme Court, which took the case in order to determine whether or not DAPA violates the Take Care Clause. Due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the case was decided by eight justices.

On June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court announced it had deadlocked 4-4 in a decision that read, in its entirety, “The judgement is affirmed by an equally divided court.” The ruling set no precedent and simply leaves in place the lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking the program.  

 

Implications:

  • This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power.
  • This is a major block to immigration reform.
  • There are tensions between the Department of Justice and U.S. district courts in regard to what the district courts allege to be an abuse of power.
  • The case may reach the Supreme Court again (since this is a decision with only eight Supreme Court justices).

 

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