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White House To Appeal Immigration Ruling To Supreme Court


President Obama's attempt to carry out limited immigration reform using his presidential power has now been struck down by two federal courts. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a split decision late Monday, sided with a federal judge in Texas who said the president was overstepping his authority. Undeterred, the White House says it will appeal to the Supreme Court. NPR's Richard Gonzales is with us to explain where this is headed. Richard, let's start with the 5th Circuit ruling. What did that panel decide?

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Well, Linda, the 5th Circuit is known as a conservative court. And it's safe to say that all sides in the immigration debate expected that 2 of the 3 judges on the panel would rule against the president. And that's exactly what happened. The court struck down Obama's plan to stop the deportation of people whose children are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Obama also intended to stop deportations of people whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally when they were children. Twenty-six states filed a suit challenging the president's action. Now, as you say, two federal courts, the District Court in Texas and the appeals court in New Orleans, have ruled against him.

WERTHEIMER: So if the administration has been losing in the lower courts, is the Supreme Court likely to see this differently?

GONZALES: Well, the administration and its supporters say the real issue is whether the president has the discretion to target threats to national security and public safety. Practically speaking, it means Obama should have the ability to order immigration officers to target people who are convicted of serious crimes and not devote their energies, for example, to the nonviolent parents of U.S. citizens. Here's White House spokesman Josh Earnest making the case that President Obama's executive actions were a response to law enforcement resources that are spread too thin and targeting the wrong people.


JOSH EARNEST: It results in more families being torn apart. And that is clearly not in the best interest of our national security. It's not in the best interest of public safety. It's also not consistent with the values of this country.

GONZALES: The supporters of the administration also say that precedent is on their side. Every president since Eisenhower has provided some temporary relief to certain groups of immigrants.

WERTHEIMER: Now, this ruling by the 5th Circuit came up last night at the GOP presidential debate. Donald Trump called it unbelievable and terrific. But he got some pushback from Ohio Governor John Kasich and from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. What's going on there?

GONZALES: Well, right. Kasich said Trump's argument that the government can deport 11 million people is, quote, "silly." Think about the families or think about the children, he said. And then Jeb Bush chimed in that Trump's hard line on immigration is causing, quote, "high-fives in the Clinton campaign" because it will likely drive Hispanic voters to the Democrats.

WERTHEIMER: So what's next? How soon could this case get to the Supreme Court?

GONZALES: Well, the clock is ticking. Legal experts say the administration needs to file its brief ASAP, certainly within this month. And the government hopes to convince the justices to hear the case early next year, with the hope of getting a ruling by mid-June, 2016. Of course, there's really no way of predicting whether the Supreme Court justices will choose to hear the case.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Richard Gonzales, thank you.

GONZALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.