Thursday, June 23, 2016

 

Supreme Court upholds Texas case blocking Obama’s immigration order

The Supreme Court dealt President Obama’s order to allow the undocumented parents of American citizens or legal residents a death blow in a Texas case by a 4-4 tie.

Underscoring the significance of the ruling, a “disappointed” Obama himself went to the White House briefing room to repudiate it, saying that the court could not decide because it was not at full strength of nine justices. He blamed the Senate for failing to consider his Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, to fill the vacancy after the death earlier this year in Texas of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The decision was a blow to Obama, all but ensuring that he will leave office in January without resolving what he hoped would be a key piece of his legacy.

“For more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken,” Obama told reporters Thursday at the White House. “And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.”

But he stressed that the solution was for Congress to approve a comprehensive overhaul to immigration law. “Sooner or later, immigration reform will get done,” Obama said. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ ”

The court issued a rare, one-sentence decision: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

The decision upholds a Texas court decision freezing the 2014 plan, which was never implemented, and prevents an expansion of another program that prevents children brought to the United States without documentation from being deported. More than 4 million residents in the U.S. without documentation are affected by the plan, though the government does not plan to step up deportations. Obama stressed that, “This does not substantially change the status quo.”

The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, would have allowed undocumented parents of children born in the United States or who are legal residents to stay in the country with a three-year renewable work permit if they had been in the United States since January 2010.

An earlier program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, applies to children brought to the United States without documentation and is not affected by the court case except for an expansion of the work permit to three years from two years.

The DAPA order applying to parents, issued in 2014, never took effect. A Texas district court imposed an injunction, and it was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The decision reflected the split in the Congress and the nation, as well as the presidential campaign, over immigration. Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, decried the ruling while Republicans hailed it. Clinton tweeted in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has centered on controlling illegal immigration.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who led the fight against the order when he was attorney general, said in a statement, “The action taken by the president was an unauthorized abuse of presidential power that trampled the Constitution, and the Supreme Court rightly denied the president the ability to grant amnesty contrary to immigration laws.” Texas led the challenge to the order and was joined by 25 other states.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court judge who filed an amicus brief along with other U.S. lawmakers, said, “By going around Congress to grant legal status to millions of people here illegally, the president abused the power of his office and ignored the will of the American people. The president can’t circumvent the legislative process simply because he doesn’t get what he wants.”

The House of Representatives had taken the rare step of joining the challenge to the order at the Supreme Court. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, “This is a win for the Constitution, it’s a win for Congress, and it’s a win in our fight to restore the separation of powers. Presidents don’t write laws – Congress writes laws. This is a case that the House weighed in on because it is fundamental to our system of checks and balances.”

But for supporters of deferring deportations, the decision was what Rocio Saenz, the executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, called a “historic failure.”

“This is personal,” said Saenz. “We will remain at the front-lines, committed to defending the immigration initiatives and paving the path to lasting immigration reform.

Marielena Hincapie, executive director of National Immigration Law Center, said, “The stakes in United States v. Texas could not have been higher: millions have watched, and waited, for the Supreme Court to affirm the president’s authority to inject some common sense into our immigration system. Today, the eight justices failed to act, and countless families will suffer as a consequence.”

Democratic New York Sen. Charles Schumer said, “Thanks to this indecision, the administration’s sensible plan to improve our immigration system – created due to Congressional Republicans’ failure to act – will be stalled. I hope that a full Supreme Court will take up the case in the future and rule the correct way, but the only way to fix our broken immigration system once and for all is to pass comprehensive reform.”

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