Lots has been made in the press this week about the 5th Circuit Court overturning Obama’s executive order on immigration that he issued with such controversy in November 2014. However, this is not exactly what happened; the Washington Post gave the best account of the ruling:
“The current ruling does not settle this argument; nor for that matter did the Texas district court opinion issued in February. The questions in Tuesday’s opinion were instead (1) whether the states actually have standing to sue over this policy; (2) whether the court itself had the power to examine the administrative action; and (3) whether there would be any public harm in continuing to suspend the program while the merits received additional attention. The answers were “yes,” “hell yes,” and “no.””
In short, in November Obama issued an executive action allowing changes to immigration enforcement in the US, as Congress had failed to act on the matter (remember, executive orders/actions are NOT allowed to be new law, just a review of how new law is interpreted/enforced). The enforcement of this order was put on hold in a district court, and this hold was upheld in the 5th Circuit. This has not put an end to the executive action, but simply put it on hold for a while. The Washington Post has commented that if this now goes to the Supreme Court, the ruling might not come in until June 2016, right in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaigning. Worse, for Obama, if it gets overturned at Supreme Court level, they wrote, it would potentially rob him of his legacy.
This proves great evidence on a number of fronts. It exposes the limits of presidential power by using executive actions/orders (great for a powers of the president at home/imperial president question). This could double in some manner as useful evidence of a second term president but remember that there is plenty that Obama is getting done. Equally, in facing a divided govt, he has been reasonably powerful so far (for example the Keystone veto). It is also useful for the power of the Courts in the US, good for a constitutional checks and balances or separation of powers question. Clearly, it is great evidence for a federalism question, with this first being raised by a Texas court, and potentially resulting in 26 states suing Obama. It is also useful in this sense as one of the reasons they are suing is that they claim the executive action is a substantive change in the law and therefore Obama is acting unconstitutionally as only Congress can do this. Finally, obviously, this could be used in any Unit 3 civil rights question!!