Midstate law professor on SCOTUS immigration review

HARRISBURG, Pa (WHTM) — The United States Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will be taking up the case regarding President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

“I’m teaching Immigration Law right now,” said Jill Family, a professor at Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg. “It’s great to sort of be able to teach and have so much of immigration law in the headlines.”

According to Family, justices will have a few key decisions to make. Initially, they’ll determine whether a group of 26 states, led by Texas, has legal standing on to sue the federal government over the executive actions announced in late 2014.

The court would then decide if the states are correct in arguing that the President’s administration overstepped its constitutional authority. In part, the Obama administration’s plan would at least temporarily spare approximately four million illegal immigrants from deportation under certain conditions. Among those who would be protected and offered the ability to apply for legal work permits and pay taxes are those who are illegal themselves but are the parents of legal U.S. citizens and who have been in America for at least five years. Teens and young adults who were brought to the country as children and raised here by illegal immigrants also would qualify.

Challenges to the executive actions in lower courts have so far been in favor of the states and have been based on procedural arguments.

“The states take the position that they [the administration] shouldn’t have used [what’s called] a guidance document, that they were, in fact, required by law to follow what is called ‘notice and comment’ procedures,” Family said.

Family says she doesn’t know why the administration chose to use a guidance document, but describes the method as faster, but “less transparent.”

“But if the U.S Supreme Court were to overrule the lower courts and say that the executive action was okay, that it was done in accordance with statute and laws, then – because we should get a decision by the end of June – then it’s up to the Obama administration to decide if they’re going to implement the policy before the end of President Obama’s term,” she said.

It is important to note that any executive action taken by a president using a guidance document can simply be eliminated by the next president, using a different guidance document. Family says the ‘notice and comment’ procedure requires more time and effort to reverse.

With millions of illegal immigrants, especially those already ingrained in their heavily Hispanic-American communities, the high court decision can’t come soon enough.

“Many undocumented immigrants have been waiting in anticipation for a decision on this important issue,” said Gloria Vazquez Merrick, who heads Harrisburg’s Latino Hispanic American Community Center. “We here in Central Pennsylvania, we are not immune to the impact of this ruling.”

In the meantime, Family plans to use the pending decision as an educational tool for her students, who will likely argue both sides of the case.

“I’ve already spoken publicly that I think the government position on the issue, on the administrative procedure issue, actually should be the winner before the Supreme Court,” she said, “but it’ll be interesting to see what the Supreme Court has to say.”

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