Immigration debate taken to US high court


18 April 2016
The US Supreme Court is due to hear a landmark immigration case which has the potential to seal the fate of millions of people facing possible deportation, as well as impact on the presidential race. This follows an ambitious bid by President Barack Obama to protect nearly five million undocumented immigrants from being deported.
The Supreme Court hearing will bring a series of executive actions to the forefront that were enforced in November 2014 by Obama after he had failed to sanction a promised immigration reform with Congress. One of the planned initiatives will seek to protect from deportation people who have also been resident in the country since 2010. Another initiative will aim to protect immigrants who entered the United States before the age of 16. Obama stated that the measures were aimed at prioritising the deportation of "felons, not families. Criminals not children. Gang members, not a mom who's working hard to provide for her kids."
A total of twenty-six states, the majority Republican-led, have stated they will not apply the measures and as a result have secured a series of court rulings that found Obama to have surpassed his authority. This Republican-manufactured legal dispute is part of a wider range of efforts targeting signature Obama reforms, such as the healthcare law labelled Obamacare.
Cornell University Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr has said that the case and subsequent decision may have wider repercussions, including redefining the balance of power between the president and Congress. Professor Yale-Loehr said: "People involved in other controversies involving executive actions, such as gun control or environmental policy, will certainly review the oral arguments in United States v. Texas closely to try to determine how legal challenges in those areas might fare."
The Obama immigration policy will now remain suspended under orders by the lower court. Therefore, even if the Supreme Court ruling, which is expected in late June, goes in the administration's favour, this would only allow a period of seven months for the program to be put in place before the president exits office in January. The eight justices will examine a number of narrow questions, including whether immigration initiatives impact state governments enough to give them the legal "standing" to sue the federal government.
The conclusion of the presidential race will also play an important role in determining the longer-term future of these policies, as the Republican candidates have declared they will repeal. However, Stephen Legomsky, who formerly served as chief counsel at US Citizenship and Immigration Services under Obama, has said that this would not necessarily mean that they would remove it from the people who have already been privy to the initiative. Legomsky stated: "The Supreme Court, for more than 100 years, has consistently held that immigration is exclusively a federal responsibility." Therefore, he argued that no one individual state could be permitted to override federal immigration policy.
The issue of immigration has already proved a controversial topic in this presidential campaign. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has added to the debate by promising to deport all 11 million or so undocumented migrants living in the United States and to construct a wall along the Mexican border.


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