The U.S. Supreme Court’s One-Liner Leaves an Immigrant Community in Limbo

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 16:19 -- ruth.mcchesney

“The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.” Today, a deadlocked United States Supreme Court issued a disappointing decision upholding a nationwide injunction against the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. DAPA, which was created by an executive order issued by President Obama on November 20, 2014, would provide immigration benefits to approximately five million undocumented immigrants who have U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children, have lived in the United States since at least January 1, 2010, do not have significant criminal history, and meet other requirements. The executive order also expanded Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which benefits undocumented persons who have lived in the United States since childhood. These programs were designed to bring undocumented immigrants who have significant ties to the U.S. out of the shadows in light of congressional inaction on immigration reform. Today’s Supreme Court decision keeps those programs on hold.

What happened?
Shortly after Obama announced the executive action, a coalition of 26 Republican-led states, including Texas, filed suit in the Southern District of Texas challenging the DAPA and expanded DACA programs on both procedural and constitutional grounds. On February 16, 2015, Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued a nationwide injunction against the DAPA and expanded DACA programs pending the outcome of litigation. The Obama administration challenged the injunction on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which upheld the injunction in a decision issued on November 9, 2015. The Supreme Court then agreed to hear the Obama administration’s petition for certiorari on an expedited basis.

What does today’s decision mean?
The Court today issued only a one-line decision that will leave many in continued limbo. In effect, the Court’s inability to reach a controlling decision means the Fifth Circuit is affirmed by the equally divided Court. The justices were split 4-4 on the outcome of the case and chose not to write a written decision explaining their views. Without a majority, the Supreme Court’s decision has no precedential value and leaves open the possibility of future challenges. For now, litigation will proceed at the district court level. However, with the injunction left in place, those parents and students stuck in the shadows must continue to wait for relief. Given today’s decision, it is unlikely that the DAPA or expanded DACA programs will be implemented before President Obama leaves office.

What options are left?
It is important to note that the 2012 DACA program remains intact, and those who have been granted benefits under that program may continue to renew their work permits. The Obama administration also remains committed to exercising prosecutorial discretion in a manner consistent with its enforcement priorities, under which undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for a long time and do not have significant criminal history are classified as low priorities for deportation. Further, immigration attorneys and activists will continue to pressure all three branches of government to deliver a long term, humane solution that addresses our broken immigration system and prevents immigrant families from being torn apart.

DMCA is committed to finding continued solutions, and short and long-term strategies to complex immigration challenges. We invite interested parties to contact us for experienced representation.