High Court Appears Closely Divided Over Obama Immigration Order

US Supreme CourtHearing arguments in a case from Texas, the Supreme Court’s eight justices seemed perhaps evenly divided on Monday as they sharply questioned President Obama’s executive action to protect as many as five million immigrants in the United States from deportation.

The Washington Post said that “the court’s conservatives and liberals seemed split, and a 4-to-4 tie would leave in place a lower court’s decision that the president exceeded his powers in issuing the directive.”

The case is United States v. Texas, a challenge brought by 26 states. The New York Times reported that it “may produce a significant ruling on presidential power and immigration policy in the midst of a presidential campaign in which both issues have been prominent.” (more…)

High Court to Hear Challenge to Obama’s Immigration Order

16scotuswebsub-master675The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday it will review a legal challenge to President Obama’s executive action to protect as many as five million immigrants in the United States from deportation, and a ruling is likely to come in the heat of the presidential election.

Obama’s executive action is one of his signature accomplishments, yet a federal district judge put it on hold last year, and then the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed (see Gavel Grab). The immigration case now joins highly charged cases involving abortion, affirmative action, public unions that are before the high court in an election year.

According to The New York Times, the Supreme Court on Tuesday expanded the reach of the immigration case, “asking the parties to address an additional and fundamental question: whether the administration’s plan violates the constitutional command that the president ‘shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’” (more…)

How One Family Court Judge Approaches Access to Justice

In communities that are magnets for immigrants, ensuring access to justice for people without much knowledge of English can be a challenge. A NPR Buffalo report from New York state illustrates how one judge is trying to meet the challenge.

In one Buffalo area, NPR says, “There are so many languages that Family Court Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin has a a phone translation system for some tongues that no certified interpreter speaks locally. That’s why she is now on a statewide Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court, seeking to make the system work better.”

The report is headlined, “Courts adapting to challenges posed by growing immigrant populations.”

Judge in Immigration Case Described as ‘Conservative but Fair-Minded’

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of BrownsvilleA federal judge in Texas, who made big news when he ordered a temporary halt to one of President Obama’s immigration plans (see Gavel Grab), is the subject of an intriguing New York Times profile.

Regarding District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, the Times reports, “Advocates for immigrants who want to see the president’s initiatives go forward have portrayed Judge Hanen, 61, as a right-wing crank. But in Texas he is known as a conservative but fair-minded jurist with keen analytical intelligence — and a jovial sense of humor, even when he is in black robes.”

Judge Hanen sits in Brownsville, roughly a mile from the Rio Grande. The president has voiced confidence that ultimately, and despite the judge’s ruling, his administration will defeat legal challenges to the plan.

Will Plan for New Immigration Judges do the Job?

451807226To deal with torrents of Central American children and families flooding the nation’s border with Mexico, President Obama wants to hire 40 new immigration judges. However, that may not bring enough help and may not be timely, said the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

“Clearly, what President Obama has requested is an excellent first step. That said, we are very concerned that it will not be sufficient to deal with the long-term scarcity of resources that the immigration courts have had to deal with, coupled with the current surge,” Dana Leigh Marks of the San Francisco immigration court told KPBS radio news.

Meanwhile the Daily Caller reported, “Obama Tells Judges to Decide Border Meltdown Cases First.”

JAS Supports Immigration Bill Amendment on Court Funding

With an eye on bipartisan immigration reform legislation before the Senate, Justice at Stake has voiced its support for an amendment proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would provide funding to support new costs incurred by the judiciary.

“[W]e must ensure that the courts have the resources to do what the legislation might require, including the adjudication of thousands of additional applications for citizenship,” wrote Praveen Fernandes, acting JAS director of policy and advocacy, in a letter to congressional leaders. “Quite simply, the judiciary wants the resources necessary to faithfully discharge its duties under the Constitution and all federal laws, including any duties entailed by the passage of new laws.”

Earlier this week, Gavel Grab mentioned  support for the amendment from the Judicial Conference of the United States.

The amendment “would authorize funds from the Comprehensive Immigration Trust Fund to be used to support any additional obligations that the Judiciary might face as a result of passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation,” Fernandes wrote.

U.S. Judiciary Voices Support for Immigration Bill Amendment

The Judicial Conference of the United States says a bipartisan immigration bill in the Senate, if passed, would “have a tremendous impact on the workload of the courts.” In a letter, it voiced support for an amendment proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would provide funding to support new costs incurred by the judiciary.

The letter to Feinstein was dated June 13 and signed by Thomas Hogan, secretary of the Judicial Conference, which administers the federal court system.

Regarding the immigration reform bill, the letter said, “If enacted, S. 744 will have serious resource implications for the federal courts. The significant increased resources authorized for Executive Branch agencies to expand border enforcement, adjudicate thousands of applications for citizenship, as well as new and increased criminal penalties, will have a tremendous impact on the workload of the courts. Yet, as reported from the Judiciary Committee on May 23, 2013, S. 744 does not include a specific authorization of funding for the Judiciary to address the increased workload that will come from implementation of the new bill.”

The letter said the federal judiciary supports an amendment by Feinstein and Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware that would authorize money from the Comprehensive Immigration Trust Fund — to be set up under the legislation — to go to “support costs of the Judiciary to implement the Act.”

Arizona Appeals Immigration Ruling to Supreme Court

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has asked the Supreme Court to lift an injunction that halted the most controversial sections of her state’s new immigration law from taking effect.

Brewer seeks a ruling that could free Arizona and other states to invoke aggressive enforcement against illegal immigrants, according to a Los Angeles Times article.  “Arizona bears the brunt of the problems caused by illegal immigration [and] is the gateway to nearly half of the nation’s illegal border crossings,”  former Solicitor General Paul Clement said on behalf of Arizona.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton put on hold in July 2010 sections of the Arizona law that call for police to check an individual’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that require immigrants to carry their legal papers all of the time (see Gavel Grab). In April, a panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Bolton. (more…)

Mayor: Appeals Court Vacates Ruling in Immigration Case

Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi of Hazleton, Pa. said the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated a mandate that found unconstitutional his city’s immigration ordinances.

According to a Standard Speaker article, the latest development followed on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court order in June.  The Supreme Court directed the Third Circuit to reconsider its ruling that Hazleton may not enforce its crackdown on illegal immigrants (see Gavel Grab).

The appeals court had said Hazleton could not enforce regulations that would fine landlords if they rent to illegal immigrants and that would deny permits to businesses that employ illegal immigrants.

The Supreme Court order in June followed its decision upholding an Arizona employer-sanctions law.

Immigration Courts Backlog Reaches All-Time High

Just how bad is the backlog of cases in federal immigration courts?

Gavel Grab has been updating readers regularly about the  backlog, and a Philadelphia Inquirer article does an exceptional job of capturing the problem in Pennsylvania:

“Seven judges. Five thousand cases. New filings heaped onto their crowded dockets every day.

“Digging into the backlog of pending cases in federal immigration courts in Pennsylvania is like using a spoon to empty an ocean.”

This compelling article turns to Dana Leigh Marks (photo), president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, to portray in equally forceful terms the enormous gap between funding for the courts and money for enforcement. She says the courts are left with inadequate resources:

“You have heard of the tail of the dog? I would say we’re the tick on the tail of the dog.” (more…)