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Cities, Counties Enter Supreme Court Fray Over Immigration

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/03/2016 Elise Foley
ATHENA IMAGE © Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

Leaders from nearly 120 cities and counties are backing deportation relief for undocumented immigrants in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court -- many of them in opposition to governors of their states.

A coalition of cities and counties, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities, will file a brief on Tuesday urging the Supreme Court to side against states that sued to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. Those policies have been on hold for more than a year, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants unsure whether they will be granted temporary work authorization and deportation reprieve.

The Supreme Court is set to hear hear arguments on Texas v. United States on April 18. Texas and 25 other states  argue in the lawsuit that Obama overstepped his authority with the deportation relief, which they claim would harm local governments that would have to provide services, such as granting driver's licenses, for more people.

Many mayors and city councils disagree, highlighting a schism between governors and local government leaders over immigration in more than half of the states that joined the lawsuit.

The conflict is not just governors being contradicted by small-time local leaders. In many cases, it's leaders from their state's most populous cities. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) and Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) are going against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), for example, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) is challenging Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R).

In total, 44 of the cities and counties that signed onto the amicus brief are from states that either are plaintiffs on the Texas v. USA lawsuit or support it, according to the pro-immigration reform coalition Cities for Action, which organized the filing.

The group said the localities involved in the brief are home to about 15 million immigrants, including more than 1.5 million who could benefit from Obama's programs. Allowing the programs to move forward would make the localities safer and provide them with revenue, they argue.

"Immigrants are part of the economic and social fabric of our cities and nation. ... But the long-delayed implementation of the President’s executive action is tearing those families and our communities apart," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said in a statement.

De Blasio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), and the mayors of Atlanta, Austin and Birmingham, Alabama, organized the brief. 

More than 70 cities and counties signed onto a previous amicus brief opposing the lawsuit last year, when it was before an appeals court.

Others have come to the defense of Obama's plans for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, or DAPA, and an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. 

Thirty-four Senate Democrats and 184 House Democrats filed an amicus brief in December, and a dozen states filed a previous brief in the lower courts. A number of advocacy groups have organized other actions that argue for deportation relief.

The House of Representatives as a whole may go in the other direction, arguing with the 26 states that contend Obama's actions were unconstitutional. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the chamber will take a "very extraordinary step" and vote on a resolution that would allow them to file an amicus brief on behalf of the House. 

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