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Why Did Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt Sign onto the Flawed Texas Immigration Brief in U.S. v Texas Supreme Court Case?

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On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the United States v Texas immigration case.  At stake is the fate of the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) immigration policies, which would provide on a temporary basis, protection from deportation and work authorization for certain undocumented immigrants who are either parents of American children or permanent residents, or came to the United States as children. Yet these policies are currently blocked from implementation due to an overtly political challenge brought by Republican Governors and Attorneys General from Texas and twenty-five other states, including Nevada.

On March 28, 2016, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt signed on to a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case. AG Laxalt joined Nevada to the lawsuit despite the fact that unfreezing the executive action policies would add millions of dollars to Nevada state and local tax revenues, and benefit tens of thousands of Nevada families with U.S. citizen children.

The GOP brief, authored by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (who is currently facing multiple indictments for felony securities fraud) is riddled with mistakes. It’s clear that politics of the case were so central to the plaintiffs’ mission, that the signers did not take care to ensure they had the law on their side. The reply brief filed by the U.S. government notes repeatedly that the brief signed by AG Laxalt got the law wrong, at one point noting, “Respondents are fundamentally wrong to claim that the Guidance confers on aliens whose presence Congress has deemed unlawful the right to remain lawfully in the United States.” That’s unequivocal language not often found in Supreme Court briefs.

As immigration attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)  David Leopold recently noted, “Since the beginning of this case, Texas and the other Republican Governors and Attorneys General have been using the federal courts to push their anti-immigrant political agenda. What the Obama administration exposed is that the brief submitted by Texas is not coherent, does not accurately portray the deferred action guidance under review — and is just plain wrong on immigration law.”

In fact, President Obama’s deferred action policies are lawful exercises of executive discretion, fitting squarely alongside the immigration executive actions that Presidents from both parties have exercised since the mid-20th century.