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What's Going On With Immigration? Here are 5 Key Points

by Suzanne Gamboa /
Image: Immigration Activists Rally Against Challenges To Obama's Executive Order On Immigration
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: Activists calling for federal judges to reject challenges to President Obama's "Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents" (DAPA) program protest outside the Jacob K. Javits Federal building, where naturalization ceremonies take place, on May 19, 2015 in New York City. DAPA, which has come under fire from conservatives, would create a system which would stop the deportation of certain immigrants who entered to U.S. illegally. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)Andrew Burton / Getty Images

A lot of legal terms have been thrown around in what seems like a convoluted process of deciding whether the president can make it possible for millions of people who are illegally here to stay and work. Emergency stay, injunction, stay of the injunction, prosecutorial discretion, deferred action. Muddling through the legal language makes it harder to understand where things are and where they are going. So here’s five points summarizing what’s going on, or not going, with immigration:

ALMOST EVERYTHING IS ON HOLD: Think of a railroad crossing and the bars that drop when the train is coming, forcing lines of traffic to stop and wait until they are given the all clear. That’s what’s going on now for millions of people – adults and children – who have been living in the country illegally at least five years. A Texas federal judge decided President Barack Obama’s administration should have written rules, notified the public and taken public input before giving the okay for more than 4 million people to stay in the country and legally work. The judge also decided the president created money problems for states. So the judge's ruling dropped the bars so nothing changes. The people who hoped to stay could be deported and any work they do is being done without permission. The judge made those decisions after 26 states sued the federal government.

LAWYERS WILL SOON ARGUE WHETHER THE PRESIDENT WENT TOO FAR: The gate, for now, is temporary. Federal officials disagreed with the Texas federal judge and went to the next court level, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, to ask its judges to get things moving again. The court turned down the federal government. But that is only part of the case. The bigger argument the states made was that President Obama went too far in deciding to let the millions of immigrants waiting at the gate to stay and work. The president and his lawyers disagree. So on July 10, the appeals court is holding a hearing where lawyers for the federal government and for the 26 states will try to persuade the judges that their view of the law is right. Then everyone waits to let the appeals court judges come back with a decision, a wait that could take months.

THE SUPREME COURT MAY GET A SAY, BUT NOT SOON: Whatever the appeals judges decides, it's likely the losing side will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But here’s the hitch. The Supreme Court is scheduled to shut down on June 29 and not start up again until Oct. 5. The court then has a choice on whether or not it wants to weigh in on the case. If it doesn’t, what the 5th Circuit decides stands. If the Supreme Court does take the case, it will schedule arguments and hear from both sides. Then there’s more waiting until the Supreme Court returns with its decision.

THE CASE COULD AFFECT THE 2016 ELECTIONS: When the U.S. Supreme Court starts its next session in October, the election will be building up speed. The first state primaries, which next year feature the presidential race, are scheduled in February. Immigration already is getting a lot of attention from candidates and media on the campaign trail and the court cases are likely to keep that going and provide plenty of fodder for the races. Congress can still pass laws that let immigrants stay and work or that would deport them. But so far, work on legislation has been slow going and what is moving is likely to run into roadblocks, not the least of which is a presidential veto. At that rate, the issue could be passed on to whomever takes office in November, both at the White House and in Congress.

SOME THINGS AREN’T ON HOLD: What do people do while awaiting a decision on their fate? Many are getting ready and are being helped to prepare for the possibility that the courts will decide Obama is right on executive action by gathering documents, saving application money and making sure their taxes are paid up - whatever it takes to make things go more smoothly, or as smoothly as they can in what has thus far has been months of stop-and-start.

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