[polldaddy survey=”AFB681BAF871CD32″ type=”button” title=”Take our GOP Election Survey!” style=”inline”]
Frustrated by the House’s inaction on a bipartisan Senate bill that would have overhauled the nation’s immigration laws, President Obama gave a little breathing room last November to those here illegally who have set down roots and established productive lives. Those executive actions would have held off the deportation of more young people brought into the country as children, while offering similar protections for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
But Obama’s actions were put on hold in February by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, who issued an injunction sought by 26 states that accused the president of rewriting immigration law and failing to follow required procedures. This page has said before that the states’ legal arguments aren’t persuasive, and has urged the courts to move swiftly. They haven’t listened, and now Obama’s executive actions are withering not on their legal merits but because of the calendar.
The Obama administration sought an emergency stay of Hanen’s injunction, which a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals — among the nation’s most conservative benches — rejected by a 2-1 vote in May. The same panel heard oral arguments on the government’s full appeal July 10. According to the court’s website, its goal is to issue opinions within 60 days, which observers say it usually meets on this type of case. But it hasn’t in this one, which was heard more than 90 days ago.
Why does that matter? Because the underlying issue of whether the president has the authority to protect classes of undocumented immigrants from deportation, and to permit them to work legally, probably will have to be resolved by the Supreme Court. But to be heard in the current session, an appeal from the 5th Circuit probably would need to be filed by Oct. 23, less than two weeks from now. Otherwise, under the usual flow of court business, the case won’t get to the Supreme Court until the next term, with no decision until after Obama leaves office. That would be bad for those eligible for the deferred action, many of whom would have qualified for a path to citizenship under the reasonable 2013 Senate immigration reform bill, and may yet again if Congress ever gets its act together.
Is the 5th Circuit willfully slow-walking this decision with its eye on the calendar? The court already considered the core arguments before denying the emergency stay in May. Or is the case really that complicated? Only the judges know. Regardless, this is not how justice is reached. The 5th Circuit needs to move this case along without delay. It would be unacceptable if the president’s executive actions are stalled not because of a legitimate legal challenge but because the wheels of justice turn too slowly.