If past is prologue in his legal battles with the feds, the lawsuit filed Thursday by Gov. Robert Bentley alleging the Obama administration’s noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980 isn’t likely to bring the president to his knees.
Bentley claims, on behalf of the state of Alabama, federal officials are in violation of the law for not consulting with the states on the placement of refugees from war-torn Syria as provided for in the law. U.S. Supreme Court precedent has held repeatedly that matters of immigration and asylum are the responsibility of the federal government.
If this sounds familiar, you may have in mind Bentley’s first tussle with the Obama administration on Syrian refugees, where he joined two dozen Republican governors in declaring they would not accept Syrian asylum-seekers within their states’ borders.
It soon became clear, however, governors have no authority to nullify presidential actions on immigration or to pick and choose which refugees they will accept.
In light of this some state leaders, such as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, have rescinded their orders halting refugee resettlement on the advice of legal counsel and in the face of the plain facts of federalism. Not Bentley.
His first run-in with the feds was in 2011, when federal judges struck down a bill intended to curb illegal immigration from Mexico. Bentley had vowed to “fight at every turn to defend this law against any and all challenges,” but the law remains off the books.
Bentley joins Chief Justice Roy Moore in thumbing his nose at Washington, D.C., from a high perch in Montgomery. Moore ordered 68 probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing uncertainty in the law, though the U.S. Supreme Court was unequivocal that such laws shall be issued in its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
“This complaint has no legal merit, and the state of Alabama has no authority under the Constitution to block the settlement of refugees,” said Southern Poverty Law Center senior supervising attorney Kristi Graunke.
Or as Wayne Flynt, a former Auburn University history professor, put it: “We arbitrated these issues between 1861 and 1865.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.