Immigration Case on Track for 2016 Supreme Court Ruling

Updated on
  • Supreme Court rejects Texas bid for delay in filing deadline
  • Texas sought 30-day filing extension, received eight days

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The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Texas’s request for a 30-day extension to file its opening brief on President Barack Obama’s deferred-deportation program, in a move that leaves open the possibility the high court will rule on the plan next year.

The justices gave Texas an eight-day delay, heeding calls from the Obama administration to keep the case on track for a potential decision by the end of the court’s term in June. The administration is seeking review after a federal appeals court blocked the program.

Under the court’s normal scheduling practices, a 30-day delay would have prevented consideration of the case until the court’s next term starts in October 2016. The court gave no explanation for the decision, and there were no recorded dissents.

The administration’s program would shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and let them obtain work permits and some public benefits. The plan, which was announced by Obama a year ago but hasn’t taken effect, applies to people whose children are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and who meet other requirements.

The case takes on added significance as the 2016 presidential campaign is under way and Republican candidates routinely criticize Obama’s immigration policy.

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 that Obama was overstepping his authority.

The administration’s appeal argues that Texas and 25 other states lack the legal right to challenge the program. Justice Department lawyers also contend that past Supreme Court cases afford the president broad discretion to set deportation priorities. Texas plans to ask the Supreme Court to reject the Obama administration’s appeal without a hearing.

Obama’s top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, urged the justices to limit the extension to eight days to ensure the case could be heard in the current term.

A delay would “prolong for an additional year the disruption of federal immigration policy,” Verrilli told the court in a letter Tuesday. He said that if the court were to grant the full extension, he would ask for a rare May argument session.

In his request for more time, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller cited workload, saying the states’ lawyers had “numerous pressing deadlines” in other cases. Keller didn’t directly address the prospect that an extension might push the case into the 2016-17 term, though he said the administration could have sought a stay of the lower court ruling.

The administration filed its petition on Nov. 20, making Dec. 21 the original due date for the Texas response. Parties often request an extension of time to file and the court grants most of those requests as a matter of course.

The timing of the immigration case made it unusual. The court typically adds the last cases of the term in January, when the nine justices have three private conferences scheduled to consider bids for review. The last of those meetings takes place Jan. 22, and the justices aren’t scheduled to meet again until Feb. 19. The last scheduled arguments are in late April.

The case is United States v. Texas, 15-674.