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Salter: High Court Face Test Over Obama’s Immigration Policies

While immigration has been an issue that was relatively on the back burner during in Mississippi, the issue may well escalate as the nation’s highest court reviews a highly-partisan challenge to the immigration policies of President Barack Obama.

The current eight members of the Supreme Court will determine the fate of millions of illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. illegally for a number of years. At best, the Obama administration initiatives could protect as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and enable them to legally work in the U.S.

Mississippi, through Gov. Phil Bryant, is a party to the lawsuit. Mississippi is one of 25 states supporting the state of Texas in its assertion that the Obama administration’s immigration policies represent an abuse of executive authority.

Late in 2014, Bryant said illegal immigrants in Mississippi cost the state $25 million in health care and education costs in 2006, telling reporters the figure had likely doubled by 2014.

“Now, remember, they are breaking the law and coming into this state and taxpayers are having to afford that cost, so, $25 million then could be $50 million now,” Bryant said. “The governors of this nation certainly have standing when the president’s decision, which we think is unconstitutional, is costing us up to $50 million a year, just here in Mississippi.”

In another action, a federal judge already ruled that Mississippi and other states couldn’t sue the government over immigration costs because of a lack of proof regarding impact.

The Obama executive action, combined with existing federal immigration initiatives, would impact a total of about 9,000 immigrants in Mississippi — some 7,000 immigrant parents and about 2,000 young people, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).

MPI says Mississippi currently has a foreign-born population of just under 60,000, or about two percent of the state’s roughly 3 million residents. MPI estimates that some 30,000 of those immigrants are “unauthorized” or in the country illegally. Other organizations offer differing estimates of the number of total immigrants and illegal immigrants as well — higher and lower — but MPI’s numbers are generally accepted as accurate and tied to current Census data.

The stakes of the high court decision are clear, according to the Council on Foreign Relations:

“Two of Obama’s deferred action programs hang in the balance. The first is actually an expansion of an existing program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which launched in 2012 and provides two years (four if renewed) of deportation relief and work visas to qualified immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally before their sixteenth birthday. Under the proposed expansion, DACA would be granted for three years instead of two, and more immigrants would be eligible.

“The second, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), was unveiled in late 2014 to provide similar benefits to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Collectively, the programs could grant temporary reprieve to more than four million out of a total estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.”

The states in the litigation argue that Obama doesn’t have the authority to change U.S. immigration law. President Obama countered by saying he acted when Congress refused to overhaul the nation’s immigration system after the Senate passed immigration reform, but the House balked.

Bryant’s entry into the lawsuit was neither inconsistent with his longtime stance on immigration nor particularly surprising. Obama’s unilateral executive actions do appear to strain the boundaries of presidential authority and puts the White House in the policy making rather than policy implementing realm.

But Republicans in Congress have both political and moral responsibilities for Obama’s action. Into a true vacuum of substantive action on immigration by Congress and both the Republican and Democratic parties, Obama’s move became predictable.

Without a congressional partner, Obama turned the immigration reform act into a solo performance. Now, the high court is invited to join the dance.

Sid Salter--studio headshot
Sid Salter–studio headshot

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him sidsalter@sidsalter.com

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