WASHINGTON (AP) – Texas asked the Supreme Court Monday for more time to answer the Obama administration's immigration appeal, a delay that probably would prevent the plan to shield millions of immigrants from deportation from taking effect during Barack Obama's presidency.
If the justices agree to the state's request, the administration's plan would miss the court's informal deadline for a decision by the end of June. The plan that Obama unveiled a year ago mainly affects people who are living in the country illegally, but who have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Unless the court was to take the rare step of scheduling an argument in May, the issue would not be heard by the justices until the fall or decided before spring 2017.
The administration is opposing the request for a 30-day delay, Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said. "The case presents issues of national importance and the department believes it should be considered expeditiously," Rodenbush said.
It is not unusual for a party to request that a deadline be pushed back, and the other side often does not object.
But timing is everything in the immigration case.
If the court turns Texas down, agrees to hear the case and decides it by June, and if the justices side with the administration, that would leave roughly seven months in Obama's presidency to implement his plans.
Texas and 25 other states, almost all led by Republicans, sued in federal court to challenge the immigration plan roughly two weeks after it was unveiled. The states have won every round in court so far, including a Nov. 5 ruling from the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Justice Department chose not to ask the high court to block those earlier rulings and allow the plan to take effect pending a final court decision in the case. On the other hand, the administration's allies said the appeals court effectively tried to run out the clock by taking much longer than usual to issue its opinion.
Dissenting Judge Carolyn Dineen King lent some credence to their complaint by taking note of "the extended delay that has occurred in deciding" the case.