Our Opinion: Supreme Court must put politics aside on immigration


If logic and legal precedent still mean anything, the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold President Obama's actions protecting a specific group of undocumented immigrants from deportation. However, we are talking about the Supreme Court.

Immigrants' advocates and some top Democrats, including Senate party leader Harry Reid, welcomed the Supreme Court's action in the hope that the justices will overturn some egregious anti-immigrant court decisions out of Texas. However, the Court, by the familiar 5-to-4 vote, could cement those decisions into law and even undermine the policy of executive orders.

In November of 2014, the president issued an executive order providing work permits and a reprieve from deportation to five million undocumented immigrants who were parents of U.S. citizens, had lived in the country for five years and had no criminal record. Their children are largely the 720,000 young American citizens born in the U.S. and granted permission to live and work in the United States through a presidential executive order issued in 2012.

That 2012 order was greeted with end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it hysteria by the far right but it is popular with Americans who don't believe that children should be punished because of where they were born. It has not been challenged and the 2014 executive order should not have been challenged either, especially considering that the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 2012 that the federal government had "broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens" under the Constitution.

Nonetheless, 26 states decided to sue the Obama administration over the 2014 action. The challenge was launched in Obama-unfriendly Texas, where gerrymandering electoral districts has essentially been made legal by the courts. A judge friendly to the states backed their challenge and an Appeals Court approved it by a 2 to 1 vote. For better or worse, the issue is now in the lap of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The complaining states tried to get around the court's 2012 decision upholding on federal authority over immigration by claiming that President Obama's executive action of 2014 posed an economic hardship. Even if that could be proven true, which it has not, the Supreme Court may be reluctant to bury itself in challenges by encouraging states to bring a lawsuit every time the federal government asks it to spend money.

The 26 states' claim that the federal government cannot alter the legal status of entire classes of Americans was effectively shot down in a brief filed by former immigration and Homeland Security officials. They noted that the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations banned the deportation of the spouses and children of some undocumented aliens.

It is significant that President Obama's actions have precedent in the last three Republican presidential administrations. President George W. Bush was also an advocate for humane immigration reform, but today's Republican Party marches to the tune of presidential candidate Donald Trump, who wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, which would destroy families and disrupt work forces even if was physically and economically feasible, which it isn't. Republican senators like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz who were once reasonable on immigration must now froth and foam about "illegals" to keep up with Mr. Trump.

As was the case with gun violence, President Obama acted on immigration because Republicans didn't. His executive orders would have been unnecessary if the Republican-led House had passed the same reform legislation the Senate approved but it indulged in immigrant-bashing politics instead. The Supreme Court, which if it confines itself to the law and the Constitution and avoids politics, should uphold the president's humane and needed actions.


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