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Fifth Circuit Briefing Complete in Texas v. United States

By Jonathan Keim | May 22nd, 2015

The parties have finished their scheduled briefing in Texas v. United States, the case brought by several states challenging last November’s policy of refusing to enforce the immigration laws against several classes of persons, and additionally, granting some form of legal status and benefits. There’s a lot there, but I wanted to highlight one particular issue.

In an effort to take advantage of the broad nonenforcement discretion allowed to criminal law enforcement, the government is going all-in on its attempt to get courts to apply a similar level of deference to administrative and civil nonenforcement, in this case under the Immigration and Nationality Act. To this end, the government briefs repeatedly characterize administrative nonenforcement discretion as a “core” executive power, even though the Supreme Court implicitly rejected that view in Heckler v. Chaney (1985) by holding that a statute can impose a justiciable enforcement duty so long as it provides a standard for courts to apply. If Congress can take power away as Heckler says, then by definition it’s not “core” executive power. I don’t see this part of the government’s characterization going anywhere.

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