United States v. Texas

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United States v. Texas
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued April 18, 2016
Decided June 23, 2016
Full case nameUnited States of America, et al., Petitioners v. State of Texas, et al.
Docket no.15-674
Citations579 U.S. ___ (more)
136 S. Ct. 2271; 195 L. Ed. 2d 638
Case history
PriorIssuing preliminary injunction, 86 F. Supp. 3d 591 (S.D. Tex. 2015); stay denied, 787 F.3d 733 (5th Cir. 2015); preliminary injunction affirmed, 809 F.3d 134 (5th Cir. 2015); cert. granted, 136 S. Ct. 906 (2016).
The judgment was affirmed by an equally divided court.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Anthony Kennedy · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Samuel Alito · Sonia Sotomayor
Elena Kagan
Case opinion
Per curiam
Laws applied
Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Administrative Procedure Act, United States immigration legislation from 1952, 1965, 1986, 1990, 1996, etc.

United States v. Texas, 579 U.S. ___ (2016), is a United States Supreme Court case regarding the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program.

In a one-line per curiam decision, an equally divided Court affirmed the lower-court injunction blocking the President's program. The case was decided by an eight-member bench due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.


On June 27, 2013, the U.S. Senate's Gang of Eight successfully passed their comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate.[1][2] However, the Republican-controlled House did not initially act on the Senate's bill.[3][4] When pressed to take unilateral executive action to limit deportations on Univision in March 2014, President Barack Obama replied "until Congress passes a new law, then I am constrained in terms of what I am able to do".[5]

On June 9, 2014, House Whip Kevin McCarthy announced that House Republicans had enough votes to pass the bill.[1][6] However, the next day House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary election. So on June 30, Speaker John Boehner announced that he would not bring the bill to a vote.[1] That same day, President Obama delivered remarks in the White House Rose Garden promising to "fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress".[1][7]

Over the next eight months the Obama Administration went through sixty iterations of different possible executive actions.[8] Finally, on November 20, 2014, President Obama delivered a primetime televised address to the nation announcing DAPA.[9][10] The Office of Legal Counsel advised that the program was constitutional, finding it was similar to President George H. W. Bush's 1990 "Family Fairness" program.[11] Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson then released two memorandums directing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to make aliens without criminal histories the lowest priority for removal,[12] and to grant deferred action to illegal immigrants who are the parents of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.[13]

The President's program, when combined with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, would have delayed deportation of slightly less than half of the 11 million undocumented aliens in the United States.[14] The New York Times reported that "more than 10 million people live in households with at least one potentially DAPA-eligible adult" and that "two-thirds of these adults have lived in the United States for at least 10 years".[14] Over half the undocumented aliens eligible for the President's delayed deportation live in California, Texas, and New York.[14]

Two weeks later, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, joined by twenty-six other states, sued in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.[1] Of the 3.6 million illegal aliens eligible for DAPA, 2.2 million reside in states that did not join the lawsuit.[14]

United States District Court[edit]

On February 16, 2015, United States District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, issued a preliminary injunction against an executive action taken by President Barack Obama that would have given illegal immigrants legal status and protection and let them apply for work permits.[why?][15][16][17] The U.S. government on February 23, 2015, asked the Court to lift the injunction while it appealed his ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans;[18][19] it also proposed that the Court could issue a partial stay that would allow every state except for Texas to start implementing DAPA.[19]

In an opinion and order published on April 7, 2015, Hanen denied the Government's request to stay the preliminary injunction.[20]:15 He affirmed the earlier ruling that the plaintiff states had standing;[20]:3–7 cited statements made by President Obama regarding the applicability of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) that DHS employees would "suffer consequences" if they failed to follow the DHS Directive;[further explanation needed][20]:7–11 denied the DOJ request to apply the injunction only to Texas;[20]:11–12 and addressed[vague] the issue of irreparable harm with regard to both the federal government and to the states.[20]:13–14

On the same day, the Court issued a separate order criticizing the federal government for granting three-year periods of deferred action to 108,081 individuals between the announcement of DAPA and the preliminary injunction,[21]:3[20]:2 despite earlier statements made to the court by the Department of Justice that no action would be taken on these applications.[21]:2 The Court reserved the right to impose sanctions against the federal government's counsel for misrepresenting facts.[21]:9

United States Court of Appeals[edit]

The Obama Administration appealed the order for a preliminary injunction and asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans to stay the district court's injunction pending appeal.[22] On May 26, 2015, the administration's motion for a stay was denied by a divided three-member motions panel, over dissent by Judge Stephen A. Higginson, meaning that the government could not implement DAPA until the Fifth Circuit ruled on the appeal of the injunction order itself.[23][24][25] Arguments were heard on an expedited basis on July 10, 2015. On November 9, 2015, a three-member panel of the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's preliminary injunction, over one dissent.[26][27]

The divided circuit court affirmed the preliminary injunction and ordered the case back to the district court for trial.[28] Judge Jerry Edwin Smith, joined by Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod agreed with the district court that Texas has standing because of the cost of issuing drivers licenses to aliens, and that President Obama's order violated the rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.[28] The majority made a new finding that the Immigration and Nationality Act "flatly does not permit" deferred action.[29] Judge Carolyn Dineen King dissented, arguing that prosecutorial discretion makes the case non-justiciable, and that there had been "no justification" for the circuit court's delay in ruling.[29]

Supreme Court of the United States[edit]

On November 10, 2015, the Justice Department announced it would ask the Supreme Court to reverse.[30] Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton attempted to prolong consideration of the case until the next October term but the Supreme Court only granted him an eight-day extension to file his opposition brief.[31] The Justice Department further hastened the case by waiving its right to file a reply brief.[32] On January 19, 2016 the Supreme Court agreed to review the case.[33] The Court took the unusual step of asking for briefing on the new constitutional question as to whether or not DAPA violates the Take Care Clause.[34]

Due to the subsequent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the case was decided by eight justices. On April 18, 2016, the Court heard ninety minutes of oral arguments from Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the Solicitor General of the United States, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund as an intervenor in support of the Government, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller for the several states, and a Bancroft PLLC attorney representing the United States House of Representatives as a friend of Texas.[35] Commentators complained that the arguments were "one of the most flagrant examples in recent memory of a naked political dispute masquerading as a legal one".[36]

On June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court announced it had deadlocked 4–4 in a decision that read, in its entirety, "The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court."[37][38] The ruling set no precedent and simply left in place the lower court's preliminary injunction blocking the program.[38] The case may reach the Supreme Court again after Judge Hanen has held a trial.[38]

President Obama immediately held a press conference criticizing the decision, where he blamed "spasms of politics around immigration and fear-mongering" as well as Senate Republicans for refusing to consider his nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.[38][39] Former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger observed "seldom have the hopes of so many been crushed by so few words".[38] Texas Attorney General Paxton praised the result because "This is a major setback to President Obama's attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law."[38]

Further developments[edit]

Sanctions on Department of Justice attorneys[edit]

While the case was awaiting a decision from the United States Supreme Court, trial court judge Hanen issued a temporary hold on three-year renewals of work authorization for some illegal immigrants.[40] The federal government gave three-year renewals of work authorization for 2,500 young, illegal immigrants, despite Judge Hanen's order.[40] The federal government later reversed the three-year extensions for those 2,500 people, and attorneys for the Department of Justice said the renewals of work authorizations were made in error.[40] Judge Hanen accused the attorneys of purposely misleading his court, he barred them from appearing in his courtroom, he demanded ethics classes for the attorneys, and he ordered other sanctions for those who argued the case in his courtroom.[41] Judge Hanen also ordered Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint someone within the department to ensure compliance with his order.[41]

Trump administration[edit]

On November 18, 2016, attorneys for both parties filed a joint motion to stay proceeding until one month after President Donald Trump's inauguration.[42] On June 15, 2017, new Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly signed a memo rescinding DAPA, ending the matter.[43] DHS's announcement clarified that the new memo does not affect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, leading the White House to announce it had not decided if it will or will not keep that other policy.[44] However, on September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced that they planned to end DACA if Congress was unable to pass it into law within six months.[45]


  1. ^ a b c d e Josh Blackman, "The Supreme Court, 2015 Term — Comment: Gridlock", 130 Harv. L. Rev. 241 (2016).
  2. ^ S. 744, 113th Cong. (2013).
  3. ^ "S.744 - Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act". Congress.gov. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  4. ^ Keeling, Drew (2014), "Immigration Reform Issues Since 2013", Migration as a travel business
  5. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Preston, Julia (29 November 2016). "Obama Pushed 'Fullest Extent' of His Powers on Immigration Plan". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Frontline: Immigration Battle". PBS Television broadcast October 20, 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  7. ^ "President Obama delivers remarks on border security and immigration reform from the White House Rose Garden". YouTube. The White House. June 30, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  8. ^ "Anna Palmer, Seung Min Kim & Carrie Budoff Brown, How Obama Got Here", Politico (November 20, 2014).
  9. ^ Adam B. Cox & Cristina M. Rodríguez, "The President and Immigration Law Redux", 125 Yale L.J. 104, 155 (2015).
  10. ^ "In an address to the nation, President Obama lays out the executive action he's taking to fix our nation's broken immigration system". YouTube. The White House. November 20, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  11. ^ "The Dep't of Homeland Sec.'s Auth. to Prioritize Removal of Certain Aliens Unlawfully Present in the U.S. and to Defer Removal of Others" (PDF). 38 Op. O.L.C. 14. Department of Justice. 2014-11-19. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
  12. ^ Memorandum from Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary, Department of Homeland Sec., to Thomas S. Winkowski, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, et al., Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants (November 20, 2014).
  13. ^ Memorandum from Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, to León Rodríguez, Dir., U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services et al., Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children and with Respect to Certain Individuals Who Are the Parents of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents (November 20, 2014).
  14. ^ a b c d Park, Haeyoun; Parlapiano, Alicia (23 June 2016). "Supreme Court's Decision on Immigration Case Affects Millions of Unauthorized Immigrants". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  15. ^ Texas v. United States, 86 F. Supp. 3d 591 (S.D. Tex. 2015).
  16. ^ Barbash, Fred (February 17, 2015). "Federal Judge in Texas Blocks Obama Immigration Orders". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  17. ^ Preston, Julia & Shear, Michael (February 17, 2015). "Dealt Setback, Obama Puts Off Immigrant Plan". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  18. ^ Tatia Woldt, "26-state coalition, led by Texas, asks judge to not lift stay in immigration lawsuit", Dallas Morning News, 4 March 2015
  19. ^ a b cmgdigital.com: "Case 1:14-cv-00254 Document 150 - Defendants' Emergency Expedited Motion to Stay the Court's February 16, 2015 Order Pending Appeal and Supporting Memorandum", February 23, 2015
  20. ^ a b c d e f Texas v. United States, No. 1:14-cv-00254 (S.D. Tex. April 7, 2015).
  21. ^ a b c Texas v. United States, No. 1:14-cv-00254 (S.D. Tex. April 7, 2015).
  22. ^ "House Democrats Encourage Representatives To Keep Holding Events On Obama Immigration Actions", The Huffington Post, February 19, 2015.
  23. ^ Nakamura, David. "Obama administration won't seek emergency stay from Supreme Court on immigration injunction", The Washington Post, May 27, 2015.
  24. ^ Kalhan, Anil (June 3, 2015). "Executive Action on Immigration and the Judicial Artifice of 'Lawful Presence'". Dorf on Law.
  25. ^ Texas v. United States, 787 F.3d 733 (5th Cir. 2015).
  26. ^ Texas v. United States, 809 F.3d 134 (5th Cir. 2015).
  27. ^ Shear, Michael D. (November 9, 2015). "Appeals Court Deals Blow to Obama's Immigration Plans". New York Times. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  28. ^ a b Lind, Dara (10 November 2015). "Obama's immigration executive actions are up to the Supreme Court". Vox. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  29. ^ a b Ford, Matt (10 November 2015). "A Ruling Against the Obama Administration on Immigration". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  30. ^ Shear, Michael D. (November 10, 2015). "Obama appeals immigration ruling to Supreme Court". New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  31. ^ Lyle Denniston, "States get a bit more time for immigration reply", SCOTUSblog (December 1, 2015).
  32. ^ Lyle Denniston, "States want wider immigration review, if Court takes case", SCOTUSblog (December 29, 2015).
  33. ^ Liptak, Adam. "Justices to Hear State Challenge on Immigration". The New York Times (20 January 2016, section A1). Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  34. ^ Palazzolo, Joe (19 January 2016). "In Immigration Case, Supreme Court Takes an Interest in 'Take Care' Clause". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  35. ^ "United States v. Texas". Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Nov 19, 2016.
  36. ^ The Editorial Board of the New York Times (17 April 2016). "Immigration Politics at the Court". The New York Times. p. SR10. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  37. ^ United States v. Texas, No. 15-674, 579 U.S. ___ (2016).
  38. ^ a b c d e f Liptak, Adam; Shear, Michael D. (24 June 2016). "SPLIT COURT STIFLES OBAMA ON IMMIGRATION: A 9-Word Ruling Erases a Shield for Millions". The New York Times. pp. A1, Column 1. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  39. ^ "President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Supreme Court's Ruling on Immigration". YouTube. The White House. June 23, 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  40. ^ a b c Shear, Michael (May 19, 2016). "Federal Judge in Texas Demands Justice Dept. Lawyers Take Ethics Class". New York Times. New York. Retrieved May 20, 2016. In a blistering order, Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville accused the Justice Department lawyers of lying to him during arguments in the case, and he barred them from appearing in his courtroom.
  41. ^ a b Palazzolo, Joe; Gershman, Jacob (May 19, 2016). "Furious Federal Judge Orders Justice Department Lawyers to Undergo Ethics Training". The Wall Street Journal. New York. Retrieved May 20, 2016. The problem, according to Judge Hanen, is the Justice Department assured him that the federal government would not begin implementing the program – which the judge apparently took to mean any part of it – before February 2015, giving him time to weigh the legal issues. He also said the Justice Department misled him about how many three-year extensions were granted.
  42. ^ Gerstein, Josh (18 November 2016). "Citing Trump win, feds move to put immigration suit on ice". Politico. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  43. ^ "Rescission of Memorandum Providing for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents ('DAPA')". United States Department of Homeland Security. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  44. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Yee, Vivian (17 June 2017). "'Dreamers' to Stay in U.S. for Now, but Long-Term Fate Is Unclear". The New York Times. p. A17. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  45. ^ Kopan, Tal (September 6, 2017). "Trump ends DACA but gives Congress window to save it". CNN. Retrieved October 14, 2019.

External links[edit]