Supreme Court Stops Obama’s Immigration Plan
In a landmark case, the Supreme Court today crushed President Obama’s immigration legacy. The court deadlocked in a 4-4 tie that means the end for an executive order that affects about 4.3 million undocumented immigrants.
In November 2014, President Obama issued a number of executive actions meant to temporarily protect millions of undocumented parents from deportation and give them work permits. At the time, Obama said his actions were meant as an answer of Congress’ failure to pass immigration reform.
Soon after, 26 Republican-leaning states – led by Texas – sued the government, arguing that the president’s actions were unconstitutional and that Obama overstepped his power by effectively changing immigration laws. A federal judge agreed with the states and blocked the programs nationwide.
Today, the Supreme Court affirmed this judgment.
Despite bad weather, a big crowd had gathered outside the Supreme Court steps to await the judgment. Several hundred supporters chanted, “Si se puede, si se puede!,” the Spanish version of President Obama’s famous “Yes we can” campaign slogan.
Before the opinion was released, there was a general believe that the justices would decide in favor of Obama’s immigration plan. Activists argued that a 4-4 tie would have been announced earlier in the month.
There was some confusion in the crowd when a positive decision in another major case – affirmative action – came down. Many people mistook it for the immigration case and started cheering. Little children whose parents are facing deportation happily ran around, yelling “We won, we won.”
But soon after the confusion was cleared up and immigration activists were all the more crashed to find out they had lost.
“We should not have the highest court of the country divided equally on such an important issue,” said Karen Tumlin, the legal director of the National Immigration Law Center. Tumlin promised to keep the fight going, until we “can have protections for our families and our children.”
“I feel profound pain, because I did not expect this,” said Brenda Barrios, a undocumented mother. Barrios came to the United States thirteen years ago from Guatemala and has two sons who are U.S. citizens.
“We were hoping to at least have our families together. To be able to go to the park without fear,” said Barrios in tears. She would have qualified for protection under Obama’s programs.
If held up by the court, Obama’s measure would have helped undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents as well as young immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children. Eligible immigrants would have been temporarily protected from deportation, could have applied for work authorization, paid taxes and applied for a number of social security benefits.
The Supreme Court held oral arguments in April, shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In an unusual move, the court allowed a lawyer for the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to make arguments in support of Texas.
The administration’s argument was that the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have enough resources to find and deport all illegal immigrants, so it’s better to set priorities. The executive action is meant to help “aliens who are the lowest priorities for removal yet now work off the books to support their families,” said Solicitor General David Verilli in court papers.
Yet, the states argued that the program would cost them millions in public service expenses. One of Texas’s main complaints was that they would have to pay for state subsidized driver’s licenses for the aliens protected by Obama’s executive action.
The decision comes in a time of heated discussion about immigration during the presidential election. The presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, has promised to support and expand Obama’s executive actions. On the Republican side, Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border and restrict Muslims from entering the country.