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The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear two key cases related to President Trump's immigration policies.
One case involves the Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" asylum policy, and the other deals with funding for the wall being constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border.
WHAT IS THE 'REMAIN IN MEXICO' POLICY?
In Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab, the Trump administration is appealing lower-court rulings invalidating its “Migrant Protection Protocols” – the so-called “Remain in Mexico” program – for non-Mexican asylum-seekers, mostly coming from Central America.
The policy, which was established in January 2019, was aimed a reducing the flow of people entering the U.S. to seek asylum. Under this policy, they are returned to Mexico to await their hearings there instead of being allowed into the U.S. The policy was first enforced at the San Ysidro, Calif., port of entry before being extended across the entire border.
In this June 23, 2020 file photo, President Trump holds an image of the U.S. border wall being built between the U.S. and Mexico as he participates in a border security briefing at United States Border Patrol Yuma Station in Yuma, Ariz. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
By doing so, administration officials said it helped end the practice of “catch-and-release” and also helped end a pull factor that was drawing migrants north. Officials say it dramatically reduces processing times as well, getting cases through in a matter of months rather than years.
A U.S. District Court issued a nationwide universal injunction blocking the policy, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in February. The Ninth Circuit noted several issues, such as claims that asylum-seekers were facing discrimination and violence in Mexico, and that the Trump administration did not follow notice-and-comment procedures set out by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Also at issue is whether the policy itself is a proper exercise of the Department of Homeland Security's authority and whether the universal injunction was properly granted or was overbroad.
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The case of Trump v. Sierra club deals with a challenge to the president’s constitutional authority when transferring military funds to help build the border wall. At issue is how much discretion courts should have when the president seeks to repurpose $2.5 billion in military funds in the face of what he determines to be a "national emergency" — the influx of immigrants and illegal drugs along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had previously upheld a lower court ruling blocking the administration.
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The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday blocked a 14-day extension to accept and count absentee ballots that some other states, including nearby Minnesota, are allowing.
Unless the 2020 presidential election is a landslide for either President Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden, results will likely not be clear until days — or even weeks – after Nov. 3.
"Although … factors may complicate plaintiffs’ voting process, they do not automatically amount to a loss of the right to vote absentee," the court said in its decision. Hundreds of special absentee-ballot voting boxes have been set up across the state.
Initially, Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens had ruled that ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 can still be counted if they are received two weeks after Nov. 3, citing "unrefuted evidence" about mail delivery problems because of the coronavirus pandemic. She said more than 6,400 ballots arrived too late to be counted in the August primary.
MICHIGAN BANS OPEN CARRY OF GUNS AT POLLING PLACES
The appeals court, however, said the pandemic and any delivery woes “are not attributable to the state.”
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted record absentee ballots requests across the country; some states sent absentee ballots to all registered voters.
A person drops applications for mail-in-ballots into a mailbox in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)
Nearly 1.4 million Michiganders have submitted early ballots less than three weeks away from Election Day, or 28.7% of the state's total 2016 voter turnout, according to data from the United States Elections Project.
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Some legislators feared that changes to the U.S. Postal Service put in place by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy months before the election could potentially delay delivery service and, therefore, ballot-counting processes.
DeJoy assured voters in an Aug. 18 statement that the USPS "is ready today to handle whatever volume of election mail it receives this fall." He has since postponed the changes.
“Happy to see this unanimous ruling to uphold the integrity of our elections process and reject judicial overreach,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey tweeted.
The Michigan Democratic Party was disappointed.
“Voters should not be punished for delays in the U.S. Postal Service or for unexpected emergencies that could make it a challenge for them to get to the polls on Election Day,” the party said.
Courts in Wisconsin and Indiana have also blocked attempts to extend the number of days to accept and count ballots.
Battle over mail-in-ballots heads for the Supreme Court
‘Unfortunately, the Supreme Court, which is now essentially an arm of the Democratic Party, is now going to legislate and extend mail-in-voting count by three days,’ says Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday morning touted a victory in a court battle over his proclamation that each county in the state can only have one location for people to drop off their mail-in ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 election, even as the court admonished the governor for his efforts to expand voting opportunities without consulting the state legislature.
The ruling issued by a federal appeals court said that because Abbott's proclamations in whole have expanded voting options in the state, those who are suing to invalidate the proclamation cannot claim they've had their right to vote restricted. The grant of a stay pending appeal – meaning a lower-court order that invalidated the governor's one drop box per county rule will not be enforced as litigation continues – signals the appeals court is likely to side with Abbott on the merits of the case as well.
"The Federal Court of Appeals upholds my proclamation about mail-in ballots saying that it actually expanded access to voting by allowing drop-offs before election day," Abbott said in a tweet early Tuesday reacting to the ruling. "Critics were clearly clueless about the legality of my action & simply voiced prejudicial political opinions."
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the request for an emergency stay. The three-judge panel on the case was made up of three members of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee list: Judges Don Willett, Stuart Kyle Duncan and James Ho. Duncan wrote the unanimous opinion leaving in place Abbott's proclamation from Oct. 1 mandating that "mail ballots that are delivered in person by voters who are eligible to vote by mail must be delivered to a single early voting clerk’s office location."
"Leaving the Governor’s October 1 Proclamation in place still gives Texas absentee voters many ways to cast their ballots in the November 3 election," Duncan wrote. "These methods for remote voting outstrip what Texas law previously permitted in a pre-COVID world. The October 1 Proclamation abridges no one’s right to vote."
Abbott's proclamations ahead of the election in sum, the judges said, expanded the right to vote by allowing for six extra days of early voting and 40 extra days where voters may drop off their mail ballots by hand. But the judges were not as supportive of the "legality" of Abbott's actions as the governor let on.
Texas Drop-box Opinion Stay… by Fox News
The circuit judges sternly warned Abbott that he may have broken the law himself by issuing the proclamations to expand voting options. Ho wrote in a concurring opinion that he only "grudgingly" upheld Abbott's order because while the federal court "usurped" state legislature's authority to write election law, "so the did the Governor of Texas."
"It is surely just as offensive to the Constitution to rewrite Texas election law by executive fiat as it is to do so by judicial fiat," Ho wrote. "Only the district court’s rewriting of Texas law is before us today, however. And that leads us to an unfortunate irony: by setting aside only the district court’s rewriting of Texas law, we must restore the Governor’s rewriting of Texas law."
Ho continued: "[T]he Governor’s actions in this case should trouble you regardless of whether you agree or disagree with any of his actions as a policy matter. For there is a more fundamental principle at stake: If a governor can unilaterally suspend early voting laws to reach policy outcomes that you prefer, it stands to reason that a governor can also unilaterally suspend other election laws to achieve policies that you oppose."
Only the district court’s rewriting of Texas law is before us today, however. And that leads us to an unfortunate irony: by setting aside only the district court’s rewriting of Texas law, we must restore the Governor’s rewriting of Texas law
The plaintiffs in the case argued that Abbott's Oct. 1 order, amending his July 27 order expanding the time for when ballots may be dropped off, had the effect of forcing voters to travel much further than they previously expected to drop off their ballots.
"For Texas’ absentee voters—including those who had already requested or received their absentee ballot with the expectation that they would be able to use one of many drop-off locations offered by their county—the effect of the October 1 order is to unreasonably burden their ability to vote," a brief filed in the lower court by the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens, along with multiple other interest groups, read.
"They will have to travel further distances, face longer waits, and risk exposure to COVID-19, in order to use the single ballot return location in their county," the groups continued. "And, if they are unwilling or unable to face these new burdens, they will have to rely on a hobbled postal mail system … and hope that their ballot will be delivered in time to be counted."
Duncan wrote that the district court in agreeing with the interest groups exaggerated any harms from Abbott's order.
"[T]he district court vastly overstated the 'character and magnitude' of the burden allegedly placed on voting rights by the October 1 Proclamation," he said. "Indeed, one strains to see how it burdens voting at all. After all, the proclamation is part of the Governor’s expansion of opportunities to cast an absentee ballot in Texas well beyond the stricter confines of the Election Code."
He added: "That voters who live further away from a drop-off location may find it inconvenient to take advantage of this particular, additional method to cast their ballots does not 'limit electoral opportunity,' as the district court thought … The fact that this expansion is not as broad as Plaintiffs would wish does not mean that it has illegally limited their voting rights."