Supreme Court decision on immigration law stymies Obama; Utah leaders react

President Barack Obama speaks in the White House briefing room in Washington Thursday on the Supreme Court decision on immigration. A tie vote by the Supreme Court is blocking the president's immigration plan that sought to shield millions living in the U.S. illegally from deportation, District of Columbia, June 23, 2016 | AP Photo/Andrew Harnik; St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – President Obama’s attempt at changing immigration policy was dealt a major blow Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4-4 decision affirming a lower-court ruling that the administration had no authority to grant status to immigrants through his “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents” — or DAPA — program.

The Supreme Court’s split vote in U.S. v. Texas indefinitely froze Obama’s plans to temporarily stop the deportation of up to 4 million people living in the U.S. illegally, The Associated Press reported.

The per curiam decision – which omits individual opinions of the justices – states simply: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

Without a majority decision, the court let stand the decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with Texas and two dozen other states — including Utah — in deciding that the administration had no authority to grant the immigration status through DAPA and blocking its implementation.

A statement by Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, in a February symposium article posted on the ScotusBlog about the case encapsulates the position of Obama’s opponents in the matter.

“Impatient presidents don’t get to rewrite the law when they don’t get their way,” Sekulow wrote. “This is foundational to our country’s entire system of governance.”

In April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and 42 other senators filed a friends of the court brief supporting the states. Summarizing the issues, the brief said in part:

… Congress has never given the Executive unchecked discretion to rewrite federal immigration policy or to fashion its own immigration code. In this case, the Executive sought to do precisely that by granting ‘lawful presence’ — and the governmental benefits that come with it — and work authorization to over four million aliens who are illegally present in the United States and who are otherwise barred from working here or receiving federal benefits under the statutes that Congress has enacted. There is little doubt that the Executive adopted … DAPA … as part of an explicit effort to circumvent the legislative process.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said Utah joined Texas in its lawsuit because the implementation of the president’s immigration policy was unconstitutional. Regardless of political party, Reyes said, the president must respect the rule of law and separation of powers.

As in so many other cases, Reyes said, the president overstepped his authority in making law without Congressional participation.  He said:

Whether the policy relates to immigration, public school bathrooms, hydraulic fracking, water management or public lands, it is the role of Congress to pass national laws. 

While serious deficiencies exist in current immigration policy, solutions should come through Congress, not by executive branch fiat. If Congress is ignored, any extension of benefits or rights is tenuous and subject to being withdrawn as arbitrarily as they were given. The Latino Community and all Americans deserve better.

Utah Republican Sens. Hatch and Lee both approved the Supreme Court’s decision in statements issued Thursday.

“I am pleased that the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Texas,” Hatch said. “In reviewing the Obama administration’s unilateral actions on immigration, this case tested a fundamental premise of our system of government — whether the Constitution means what it says in giving the people’s elected representatives in Congress the power to make the law, or whether the President has the power to ignore, undermine, and rewrite the law by fiat. I applaud the judiciary for holding the Obama administration accountable to the law and for striking a major blow against executive overreach.”

Lee said the Supreme Court fulfilled its constitutional duty to act as a check on the power of the president.

“President Obama may have thought he could use a pen and a phone to steamroll the democratic process,” Lee said, “but the Supreme Court has reminded him that there is a proper way to change our laws. This reminder is even more crucial given that Hillary Clinton has promised to end almost all deportations categorically. In the meantime, I will continue to work with my colleagues to achieve real, step-by-step reform of our immigration system.”

Obama made clear he believed that the unusual outcome was a result of the Republican-led Senate’s refusal to consider confirming Merrick Garland as a replacement for the seat left vacant by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Republicans in Congress currently are willfully preventing the Supreme Court from being fully staffed and functioning as our founders intended,” Obama told reporters Thursday. “And today’s situation underscores the degree to which the court is not able to function the way it’s supposed to.”

By deadlocking on Obama’s immigration program, the AP reported, the Supreme Court not only scuttled a policy the White House hoped would be a cornerstone of the president’s legacy, it also added another chapter to Obama’s turbulent history with the court and delivered a reminder that there’s more to come.

In Obama’s final seven months in office, the federal courts will weigh in on several key pieces of his remaining agenda, including environmental regulations. The court has twice saved Obama’s health care law from becoming his signature failure. The president has heralded the court’s decision on gay marriage and personally dressed down justices for a decision on campaign finance laws.

KATHLEEN HENNESSEY, Associated Press, and  JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press, contributed to this report.

Email: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic@STGnews | @khennessey | @joshledermanAP

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

AP elements: Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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19 Comments

  • ladybugavenger June 24, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Obamas been signing executive orders his whole presidency. A one man democracy? I’m glad they stopped him this time. Say No to Hillary #neverhillary

    • Henry June 24, 2016 at 5:49 pm

      Ladybug – good comment. What’s scary is that the Supreme Court Justices split 4-4 in this ruling. If Hillary becomes President, she’ll be appointing 2-3 leftist Justices. Then all SCOTUS decisions will simply be a rubber stamp for the Progressive agenda.

    • Chris June 25, 2016 at 10:42 am

      If you think Obama has been unique in his use of executive orders, you are quite ignorant of history. You apparently slept through the entire Bush administration.

      • Henry June 25, 2016 at 1:51 pm

        Chris – are you lying intentionally or unintentionally? Google a Factcheck.org article titled “Obama’s Actions ‘Same’ as Past Presidents?”; their answer is a resounding NO. Past presidents have used Executive Actions to address vague areas in laws passed by Congress. Obama has used Executive Actions as de-facto laws to circumvent Congress, in clear violation of our Constitutional Separation of Powers. Do actual research instead of simply repeating DNC spin, Chris.

        • Bob June 25, 2016 at 4:45 pm

          u a fan of baby Bush II? I can’t say for fact that hussein has been worse, but most republican voters have a short memory when it comes to baby Bush’s failures–think of a goldish. i give hussein a little credit for not dragging us into more full scale muslim wars, but i’m sure u can drone on about how Iraq was worth it. LOL

          • ladybugavenger June 26, 2016 at 8:01 am

            Whoh Bob! You’re slipping into the dark side, come back to the light.

          • Henry June 26, 2016 at 12:02 pm

            Bob – I quoted Factchck.org’s article that compared the Executive Actions of Obama vs previous Presidents (not just George W. Bush. If you want to join Chris in a diatribe against Bush43, you guys should comment in an article about Bush43, not try to high jack an unrelated article.

          • Bob June 26, 2016 at 2:29 pm

            well, i always like to point out republican hypocrisy when it comes to them ripping on hussein. i won’t defend hussein, but it would be hard to top baby bush II as far as failures go. i hope we don’t get anymore ultra-gay-rights supporting , open borders supporting , muslims as pres ever again!

      • .... June 25, 2016 at 6:20 pm

        Ha Ha Chris. ..the only ignorant person here is you !

    • .... June 25, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Have a nice weekend ladybug ☆☆☆☆☆

  • Bob June 24, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    time for these illegals to go home. maybe these “dreamers” can dream about going to mexico and making IT a nicer place to be, instead of, well, you know…

    • .... June 25, 2016 at 6:22 pm

      Are those your illegals dumbob ?

  • r2d2 June 24, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    It’s about time.

  • .... June 24, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    All I can say is. ..ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  • ladybugavenger June 24, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    If Hillary becomes president, there will be a continuation of our government caring more about other countries “all in the name of love and peace” then us that are citizens here. Ewwwwwwwww one world order? Be frightened of world peace…it will be chaos

    • Bob June 25, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      well they do want a one world order as u say. that’s why they want open borders. that’s why we got flooded with illegals over the last 20yrs.

      • ladybugavenger June 26, 2016 at 8:27 am

        The book of revelations talks all about the signs..it’s happening step by step. The antichrist will rise and fool people in believing he’s the messiah. (I thought it was Obama for a while) right will be called wrong (that’s happening) good will be called evil (that’s happening) one world order (it’s in the making)

        Bob, get some good camping gear and run to the hills.

  • .... June 24, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    Another brilliant comment from me. how doo Eye doo it !

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