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House files brief in Supreme Court immigration case

The House’s legal counsel on Monday filed an amicus brief arguing before the Supreme Court that President Obama overstepped his authority in issuing executive actions to shield illegal immigrants from deportation.

The unprecedented move to file a brief on behalf of the entire House formally inserts Congress into one of the most high-profile Supreme Court cases this year, regarding the legality of Obama’s 2014 executive actions.

The amicus brief argues that Obama’s executive actions effectively encourage people to break the law because Congress has not changed the statute governing the affected programs. It further states that the Constitution says the executive branch has the power to “enforce” laws, not to enact new ones.

{mosads}”The Executive may disagree with the laws Congress enacts and may try to persuade Congress to change them. But neither any immigration law now on the books nor the Constitution empowers the Executive to authorize—let alone facilitate—the prospective violation of those laws on a massive class-wide scale,” the brief states.

It adds that the Obama administration’s “novel theory that the power to enforce the law includes the power to authorize its prospective violation not only defies law and logic; it also raises constitutional concerns of the first order.”

Monday’s action comes after the House voted largely along party lines last month to authorize Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to file the brief.

Five Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the measure: Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Mario Díaz-Balart (Fla.), Bob Dold (Ill.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.). 

House Democrats maintained that the amicus brief, in spite of being filed on behalf of the full House, didn’t speak for them. They opted to file their own amicus brief last month in support of the executive actions.

Twenty-six states, led by Texas, challenged the legality of the executive actions in the aftermath of the 2014 elections. Obama’s actions have been on hold for more than a year after a federal judge ruled in the challenging states’ favor.

The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments in the case on April 18. But it’s possible that the case will result in a deadlocked decision due to the vacancy on the court. 

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