Turner files amicus brief for Obama’s immigration executive action


Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

The city of Houston has added its voice to a friend of the court brief in the looming U.S. Supreme Court showdown over President Obama’s late-2014 executive actions on immigration, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Tuesday.

Calling the president’s decisions “common sense and humane,” Turner urged the court to overturn lower court injunctions that have blocked the implementation of Obama’s plans.

“A favorable ruling would remove the fear of deportation and separation that more than 200,000 eligible immigrants in the greater Houston metropolitan area live with every day,” the mayor said. “This lawsuit is bad for the economy, hurts families and has stalled desperately needed changes to the federal government’s immigration policies. These are individuals who are business owners, customers, students and parents who simply want a brighter future.”

See here for the background, and here for the Mayor’s press release, which touts the city’s Office of International Communities and Refugee Affairs for folks who are looking to achieve citizenship and need a little help.

Also getting into the amicus game are Congressional Democrats.

More than 200 Democrats are backing a new amicus brief that will be filed later Tuesday with the high court, arguing the controversial actions Obama took in November 2014 that could defer deportations and grant work permits to more than 4 million immigrants in the United States illegally are both legal and constitutional.

The renewed effort from Democrats comes as House Republicans are also mulling whether to get involved in the high-stakes case. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said last week that the House will vote on a resolution to allow lawmakers to file an amicus brief in Texas vs. United States, calling Obama’s executive actions a “direct attack on the Congress’ Article I powers under our Constitution.”

Now, Democrats are quickly trying to counter the GOP’s offensive against Obama’s actions.

The new amicus brief from Democrats also delves deeper into a new legal question that the Supreme Court will consider: whether Obama violated the “Take Care” clause, which essentially calls on the president to “take care” that laws are faithfully executed.

Democrats are insisting that Obama is not violating the “Take Care” clause because the executive actions are well within the authority of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose sprawling agency oversees immigration matters.

Because Congress sets aside a finite amount of money for deporting undocumented immigrants every year (that figure is generally estimated at 400,000 immigrants annually, while there are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States), Homeland Security officials have to set priorities for who to deport with those limited resources. Obama’s executive actions lay out such priorities, and because Democrats believe doing so is within Johnson’s authority, it “by definition reflects the faithful execution of the law,” Democrats say.

The executive action “reflects the decision by [Johnson], acting within finite congressional appropriations insufficient to remove every removable noncitizen, to channel DHS’s enforcement efforts according to a set of removal priorities,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote in a draft of the brief obtained by POLITICO in advance of its release. “That is not a deviation from the obligation to faithfully execute the laws; rather, it is a fulfillment of it.”

Oral arguments are scheduled for April 18. I’m sure there will be plenty more filings before then.

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