The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to resolve a procedural dispute that may foreshadow the fate of President Barack Obama’s stalled deferred-deportation program.
The court could act imminently on a request by Texas and 25 other states for a 30-day extension of the deadline to respond to the administration’s bid for a hearing.
While in other contexts that request would be routine, it has taken on heightened importance because of the realities of the court’s calendar and the administration’s desire to revive the program before Obama leaves office next year.
If the court grants the request, the justices would have to deviate from their normal scheduling practices to consider the case during the nine-month term that ends in June. The administration says the court should allow only an 8-day extension to ensure the case can be heard this term.
A delay would "prolong for an additional year the disruption of federal immigration policy," U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli told the court in a letter Tuesday. He said that if the court grants the full extension, he will ask for a rare May argument session so that the case can be decided in the current term.
The program would shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and let them obtain work and some public benefits. The plan, which was announced a year ago but hasn’t taken effect, applies to people whose children are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and who meet other requirements.
A federal appeals court blocked the plan, ruling 2-1 that Obama was overstepping his authority.
In his request for more time, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller cited workload, saying the states’ lawyers had "numerous pressing deadlines" in other cases. Keller didn’t directly address the prospect that an extension might push the case into the 2016-17 term, though he said the administration could have sought a stay of the lower court ruling.
The court typically adds the last cases of its term in January, when the justices hold three private conferences scheduled to consider bids for review. The last of those meetings takes place Jan. 22, and the nine justices aren’t scheduled to meet again until Feb. 19. The last scheduled arguments are in late April.
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