Supreme Court Deadlocks on Immigration

Obama order to extend relief to undocumented immigrants blocked

Rally for immigrant families in November 2015
Rally for immigrant families in November 2015 (Photo by John Anderson)

In a 4-4 tie, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning effectively blocked a significant opportunity to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants – including more than 700,000 Texans – from deportation and allow them to secure work permits.

The split vote in United States v. Texas permits a previous 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the protections to stand.

After yielding to pressure from immigrant rights activists in 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order to expand protections for undocumented immigrants. Obama called to widen eligibility for participation in the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and create the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (DAPA), which would allow undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents (and have lived in the U.S. since at least 2010) to apply for work permits if they pass background checks.

While serving as attorney general, Gov. Greg Abbott – in his quest to sue the Obama administration as often as possible – led a 25-state lawsuit to prevent the order from taking effect. Last February, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville blocked Obama’s executive order, and the 5th Circuit upheld the injunction in November. (Texas officials strategically filed the suit in Hanen’s district because the judge is known for being a critic of Obama’s immigration policy.) The Justice Department then appealed to the high court. The 4-4 tie sends the case back to Hanen’s court. Earlier today, Obama said the SCOTUS decision is “heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who have made their lives here."

The Supreme Court deadlock means families of undocumented immigrants will be forced to continue to see their futures hang in limbo. “I’m heartbroken over today’s decision for our members, families, and communities who were really hopeful that this ruling could provide some reprieve from the anxiety that they live with on a constant basis,” Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project, tells the Chronicle.

The immigrant-rights group says 750,000 Texans and some 42,000 Travis County residents are affected by today’s decision. “It is impossible to articulate the devastating impact this has on working people in Texas,” says Garza. “They are incredibly disappointed and crushed by the decision. But our resolve and determination remain unbreakable – the fight is not over.”

Garza points to not just the benefit the order would have had on immigrant families in Texas but the economic impact in the state – if the executive order were allowed to move forward, it would increase the state’s GDP by $30 billion. “Our governor has not only jeopardized immigrant families, but he’s also doing harm to the Texas economy.”

While Texas Republican officials, like Attorney General Ken Paxton and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, expectedly cheered the SCOTUS decision as a rebuke against Obama’s “amnesty,” Democrats expressed disappointment and a renewed call to push for immigration reform. “The Supreme Court’s decisions regarding President Obama’s executive actions on DAPA and DACA represent a sad day for Texas families,” said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, in a statement following the decision. Anchia championed a House concurrent resolution to affirm the Texas DREAM Act during the last legislative session. “Nobody should be celebrating the loss of compassion or the failure to do justice. Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue in this country, and Congress should put aside its intransigence on this issue and work to pass legislation that will ultimately benefit employers, workers and families.”

The Workers Defense Project will hold a rally outside the Governor’s Mansion at 1010 Colorado tonight at 7pm. to show support for immigrant families. Event info can be found here.

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immigrant rights, DACA, Greg Abbott, Rafael Anchia

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