The decision in United States v. Texas highlights why this election cycle is so crucial. The case concerns a 2014 executive action signed by President Obama, that would have allowed as many as five million unauthorized immigrants who were the parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to apply for a program that would spare them from deportation and provide them with work permits. The program was called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. The thinking was that the United States should not break up families that have come to the US to make a better life for themselves and their families. The President hoped to not separate parents from their children and keep families together.
The decision by the Court was short, direct and very powerful. “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” The Court sent a clear message with this opinion, that until the seat left by Justice Scalia is filled, their hands are metaphorically tied. The Supreme Court cannot fully do its duties under the Constitution until the Court is made whole again.
Whatever one’s political affiliation may be, everyone can agree that a short-handed Supreme Court is not helpful to anyone when it comes to making judicial decisions.
In regards to its implication on immigration policy, what does this decision mean. What this decision does is make it easier to deport undocumented, non-criminal parents of United States citizen children. In the one-sentence order written above, the Supreme Court affirmed by an equally divided Court the decision of the US Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit, leaving intact a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of President Obama’s executive actions granting “deferred action” to potentially millions of eligible undocumented parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents and expanding the previously-implemented deferred action program for undocumented immigrants who entered the US as children.
Those individuals that are here illegally, regardless of how they came to be illegal, could be taken from their home and deported even if they have legal children or lawful permanent resident family members. Upholding the injunction sends the message that at this moment, the US is more concerned about removing illegal immigrants than with maintaining a happy and supportive household.
Those who opposed the executive action will argue that this decision should not be viewed as being anti-illegal immigrant, but more so about ensuring that no single person (even the President) cannot make or change the law on their own. That the system of checks and balances were put in place to make sure instances like this do not happen.
This decision is hard to accept when considered along that of Mathis v. Texas, where the technicality of the law benefited criminal illegal immigrants but here when the law is trying to be helpful and sane the Court does not aid those at risk of being punished with deportation.
Finally, it should be noted that the Obama administration has asked for case to be reheard when the Supreme Court again has all nine Justices.