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Supreme Court Hearing on Obama’s Immigration Action May Come Down to Drivers License Fees

supreme-court-545534_640While the rhetoric behind the challenge led by Texas and 25 other states to the Obama administration’s immigration executive action—set for arguments in the Supreme Court this month—is centered on alleged violations of the separation of powers, the Court’s ruling may ultimately come down to something more trivial: drivers license fees in Texas.

It’s all because the 26-state coalition’s legal ability to submit the case to the Supreme Court is hinged on Texas’ claim that President Obama’s executive action, called the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), would require the state to shoulder the costs of processing licenses to immigrants qualified under the program. In its outline, DAPA would allow millions of previously undocumented immigrants with children who have obtained legal U.S. citizenship to receive protection against deportation (albeit temporary), find work, and apply for a driver’s license.

In Texas, the cost of applying for a license is $24.00, but officials say the real cost of processing each driver’s license application is $200.00. And because of the large number of immigrants in Texas who can ask for licenses should DAPA be approved, state officials say, “Texas therefore would lose millions of dollars if even a small fraction of DAPA-eligible aliens applied for driver’s licenses.”

DOJ: Costs to Texas Self-Generated

The Justice Department, however, claims Texas shouldn’t be in court at all, as the state’s cost of subsidizing “temporary visitor driver’s licenses for aliens” is self-generated, suggesting that they’re free to charge the full cost of providing licenses. In a brief to the Supreme Court, the government points out, “If such self-imposed harms were sufficient, then states could force disputes over a wide swath of federal policies.”

The Supreme Court has gone to great lengths to achieve consensus decisions after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch conservative whose untimely passing left the court with eight justices and a higher chance of deadlocked votes. Texas’s standing issue might help the court avoid a split vote.

Who Benefits from DAPA?

If approved, the Obama immigration plan would grant immigration relief to more than 4.1 undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, helping keep law-abiding families together.

After being announced in November 2014, immigrants streamed into schools, community centers, and churches around the country to join workshops and learn about the policy. The administration’s immigration program, widely considered as the centerpiece of the president’s second term in office, is limited to undocumented immigrants with clean records and with children with citizenship or PR status. The government says the program is similar to temporary executive actions by past administrations, which provided immigration relief to specific immigrant populations, formalizing the existing discretion the Office of the President has over immigration policies.

If you or anyone you know is an immigrant covered under DAPA, learn more about how the upcoming Supreme Court decision affects your situation by consulting the legal team of Lyttle Law Firm. Call us today at (512) 215-5225.