On Immigration, Feds and Texas Play Chess

by | November 25, 2015 AT 11:35 AM

By Julian Aguilar

A procedural game of chess continued Tuesday between the White House and Texas over the timing of a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling on President Barack Obama's controversial immigration plan that would shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Texas, leading a 26-state coalition that has successfully blocked the plan in lower courts, has asked the high court for a delay that some predict would push any ruling so late into — or even beyond — Obama's last term that it would effectively doom the proposal.

It was the federal government's move Tuesday, and the U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to reject Texas’ request for a 30-day extension to file its brief in the case, but says it is open to an eight-day delay if the response is “physically on file” at that time.

A full delay could mean the high court doesn't render a final decision on the program — known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — until June 2017, U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said in a letter to Supreme Court Clerk Scott S. Harris. That would be more than two years after the president announced the policy that would protect more than four million undocumented immigrants from deportation proceedings and allow them to apply for three-year work permits.

Brownsville-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen has already struck down the program, finding that Obama violated federal law by enacting it through an executive order, and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that ruling.

The White House filed its appeal with the Supreme Court on Friday, and Texas promptly requested a 30-day extension to respond.

Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller cited several other cases the state has pending before the court that it must prepare for. He also said the White House could have acted sooner if it was worried about the immediate effects of the lower courts’ rulings.

It’s unclear when the high court will decide on the extension, but the justice department said it’s prepared to press on should the extension be granted.

“We note, however, that should state respondents’ request for a 30-day extension be granted, we anticipate filing a motion for expedition and a May argument session to permit the case to be heard this Term,” Verrilli wrote.