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On Immigration, the Wheels of Justice Have Ground to a Halt in Appeals Court

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It’s Time to Get a Decision And Move On to The Supreme Court
Washington, DC – Expansion of the Obama Administration’s deferred action policies remain stuck in the legal process.  As key observers are now highlighting, the delay is part of a partisan legal strategy designed to keep these programs from taking effect for as long as possible.  In the meantime, millions of people’s lives are in limbo.  
According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “The Republicans who oppose these policies are playing politics with people’s lives.  What we are witnessing is an explicitly partisan strategy engineered to delay implementation of DAPA and DACA expansion for as long as possible.  That may be politics as usual for the GOP, but it’s irresponsible and cruel.  While we remain confident that the case will eventually makes its way to the Supreme Court, which will ultimately allow the actions to proceed, the Attorneys General, Governors, lawmakers, and candidates behind this lawsuit deserve widespread condemnation.”
Major observers are raising crucial questions about the legal slow-walk on display.  Today’s front-page New York Timesarticle by Michael Shear and Julia Preston, titled “In Courts, Running Out the Clock on Obama Immigration Plan,” highlights the following:
“The conservative legal campaign against the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s immigration overhaul has largely succeeded in running out the clock, blocking the president’s executive actions from taking effect while judges consider their legality.  Now, even if Mr. Obama ultimately prevails in the legal battle — which would occur next summer at the earliest — there will probably be time for at most a few hundred thousand of those immigrants to qualify for protection before the end of the president’s term.
“Worse for the administration, in the next few weeks, the states fighting to stop Mr. Obama may score their biggest victory yet — achieving a long-enough delay in the lower courts to prevent the Supreme Court from even considering and ruling on the case until after next year’s presidential election. That timing would leave any final decision about immigration to Mr. Obama’s successor.
“…Already, disappointed immigration activists are preparing a fallback strategy to try to turn the fate of Mr. Obama’s promise into a political issue on the 2016 campaign trail. Their goal is to motivate immigrants who are citizens to vote by focusing on what the activists say is the once-in-a-lifetime chance that has slipped away for millions who are undocumented.
“… ‘The lack of action is taking on the tenor of political behavior that is unconscionable for a federal court,’ said Kica Matos, the director of immigrant rights and racial justice for the Center for Community Change, an organizer of the protest.  ‘We want to let the court know that we are watching. It is not acceptable to us that they are going to run out the clock to achieve political goals.’”
“[D]espite the uncertainty about when the 5th Circuit will rule, one thing’s for sure – whatever the court decides, the final word on the Obama’s executive actions will come from the U.S. Supreme Court.  The GOP lawsuit is aimed at millions of mixed-immigration status American families and raises serious constitutional questions about whether the case is even properly before the court.  
“…But time is short.  The Supreme Court begins its term this week.  Unless the 5th Circuit rules soon – like in the next two or three weeks – it’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court will be able to decide the case before June 2017.  That means the panel’s protracted delay will effectively leave 5.5 million low enforcement priority undocumented immigrants and their families in immigration limbo until well after Obama leaves office.
“The panel’s delay feeds directly into the strategy of the GOP plaintiffs who clearly brought the suit to block the implementation of DAPA and DACA.”
“[U]nder 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.”
“[M]eet with the immigrant families in our community and in our state to understand the harm that this lawsuit is causing these families … I urge these state leaders to drop opposition to these federal programs because of the benefits they can provide to our local communities.”
“The court’s delay is unconscionable.  They are working in service of a partisan strategy that has real consequences for human beings, including American citizens and their families.  The Republican attack and delay strategy is also serving this up to be a major issue for the 2016 general election—a fact that will ultimately backfire on the ‘geniuses’ behind it,” Tramonte continued.    
 Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice
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