AUSTIN — The deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court on June 23 in effect affirmed a judgment that the Obama administration’s use of deferred action in implementing immigration policy violates the United States Constitution.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier ruled it was a presidential overreach to implement an immigration policy not approved by Congress. The Supreme Court’s 4-4 tie vote leaves that ruling in effect.
Gov. Greg Abbott welcomed the outcome. “The action taken by the president was an unauthorized abuse of presidential power that trampled the Constitution and the Supreme Court rightly denied the president the ability to grant amnesty contrary to immigration laws,” Abbott said.
In his remarks to the press following the court’s action, President Obama said, “I have pushed to the limits of my executive authority. We now have to have Congress act. And hopefully, we’re going to have a vigorous debate during this election. This is how democracy is supposed to work and there will be a determination as to which direction we go in.”
The main question before the court since January was whether the discretionary power exercised by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson violates the “take care clause” of the Constitution. The clause requires the president to take care that the laws of the nation be faithfully executed.
A “guidance” memorandum issued by Johnson on Nov. 20, 2014, lays out a process called “deferred action” by which he exercises discretion over whom to deport and whom not to deport. The process was to be used when considering undocumented residents who have lived in the United States for five years and either came here as children or already have children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Other questions in the case included:
1. Whether a state that voluntarily provides a subsidy to all undocumented individuals with deferred action has constitutional standing and a court-worthy cause of action to challenge the guidance because it would lead to more undocumented individuals having deferred action;
2. Whether the guidance is arbitrary and capricious or otherwise not in accordance with the law; and
3. Whether the guidance was subject to the federal Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment requirement.
Meanwhile, unless Congress takes action, the fate of millions of undocumented residents remains in question. Congress is on summer break until late July.
Court decides Fisher case
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the University of Texas’ use of race as a factor in student admissions.
The high court voted 4-3 to affirm the judgment of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
Petitioner Abigail Fisher filed suit after being denied admission to UT in 2008. Fisher alleged the university’s consideration of race as part of its holistic-review process placed her and other Caucasian applicants at a disadvantage. She maintained that the policy amounted to a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.
An Austin federal district court ruled the university’s admissions policy was in violation of the clause, but on appeal, the Fifth Circuit ruled the policy was legal.
According to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, the component of UT’s admissions policy that had the largest impact on Fisher’s chances of admission was not the school’s consideration of race but rather the Top Ten Percent Plan. That plan guarantees acceptance for students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
“Because petitioner did not graduate in the top 10 percent of her high school class,” wrote Kennedy, “she was categorically ineligible for more than three-fourths of the slots in the incoming freshman class.”
Assistance request granted
The Obama administration on June 22 granted Gov. Abbott’s federal disaster request for individual assistance for Bastrop, Burleson, Eastland, Lee, Liberty, Stephens and Tyler counties, amending the June 11 disaster declaration that was issued to address recent severe flooding.
Individual assistance, which must be applied for, may include help with temporary housing, lodging expenses, repairs to a primary residence, financial assistance to homeowners to replace their home destroyed in the disaster that is not covered by insurance and permanent or semi-permanent housing construction in FEMA-specified areas or locations.
According to the governor’s office, more counties may be added to the list.
DPS: Don’t leave kids in car
The Texas Department of Public Safety on June 22 posted a warning that warmer weather places children at greater risk of injury or death if left unattended in a vehicle.
Every year children die from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle or entering a vehicle unnoticed.
DPS Director Steven McCraw said, “Members of the public can also do their part to keep kids safe by notifying emergency personnel if they witness a child alone or in distress inside a vehicle — regardless of the weather.”