Obama Asks Supreme Court to Reverse Immigration Ruling

by | November 23, 2015 AT 11:50 AM

By David G. Savage and Molly Hennessy-Fiske

The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to reverse a lower court ruling that blocked the president's plan to defer deportation for as many as 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

U.S. Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli asked for an "immediate review" of a 2-1 ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with the state of Texas and blocked Obama's immigration order from taking effect. The administration previously had announced it planned to appeal.

That decision, unless reversed, "will force millions of people ... to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families," he said. "It bars approximately 4 million parents -- who have lived in this country for years, would pass a background check, are not priorities for removal and have a son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident -- from requesting deferred action ... and receiving authorization to work lawfully."

In addition, the appeals court opinion "will place a cloud over the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as children" and won temporary relief from deportation under a 2012 order, he said.

The administration lawyers are asking the court to move quickly and to grant the appeal in January so the case can be argued and decided by June. Otherwise, a decision would not come until after Obama has left office.

Verrilli's brief argues that federal law makes clear that immigration policy is set by the federal government, not the states. He also says Texas has no standing to sue because it chose voluntarily to offer driver's licenses to the immigrants who are the subject of the order. The judges who ruled for Texas cited the cost of these licenses as the basis for granting standing to the state.

If the high court were to rule for the administration in June, the decision would allow the "deferred action" order to go into effect in the final months of the Obama administration.

"We are very pleased that the Department of Justice is moving quickly on this. We're hoping the Supreme Court will take the case and they will resolve it quickly," said Nora Preciado, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles. "We are talking about at least 5 million people who could benefit from this program. ... It behooves the country to make sure these programs get implemented soon."

Lawyers for Texas and 25 other Republican-led states will have 30 days to file a response with the high court.

"Three times federal courts have ruled in our favor, and we stand ready to continue defending the rule of law against the president's unconstitutional use of executive power," said Cynthia Meyer, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office.

(Tribune Washington Bureau staff writer Savage reported from Washington and Los Angeles Times staff writer Hennessy-Fiske from Houston.)

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