In a decision much anticipated by millions of immigrant families, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) tied 4-4 in the case United States v. Texas.
The decision today affects President Obama’s executive programs called DAPA (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability) and an extension of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals called DACA+.
The Supreme Court did not reach a majority in the case, deadlocking the decision and underscoring the dilemma of having an eight-justice court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. It is expected that the actions of the lower courts will remain in place, not allowing DAPA and DACA+ to proceed.
The implementation of these executive programs had been stalled in the courts due to a lawsuit by a group of attorneys general in 26 conservative-leaning states, as well as an injunction of the program issued in Texas in February 2015.
After the rulings against DAPA and DACA+ and the subsequent appeals in lower courts, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on two issues: the “Take Care Clause” of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The “Take Care Clause” says the President must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” The Administrative Procedure Act sets down rules for how laws should be enacted. The states also claimed President Obama overstepped his power by moving forward with an immigration policy without approval from Congress.
DAPA and DACA+ would benefit immigrants classified as low priority for removal, mainly persons with good moral character and strong ties in the U.S. DAPA would help undocumented parents of citizens and legal residents who fulfill other requirements, such as having a clean record and being in the country continuously since 2010.
DACA+ beneficiaries would be people left out of the original 2012 DACA program due to being over 31 years old, but who came to the country as minors, at least graduated from high school and resided continuously in the country.
It is unclear after the courts reached this evenly divided decision if there will be any further proceedings in the case within the lower courts. Legal analysts believe it is possible there will be more proceedings since the Supreme Court reviewed a lower court decision that granted a preliminary injunction – a preemptive block on a legal action often issued early in a case.
It is also possible that the Supreme Court will decide to schedule the case for re-argument at a later time when the court is again composed of nine justices.
President Obama has already used his executive powers in immigration actions. In June 2012, he created the DACA program by announcing deferred action for children brought to the United States who had graduated from American high schools. DACA was modeled after the legislation known as the DREAM Act.
The Obama administration proposed these two initiatives after Congress failed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill due to opposition from conservative lawmakers.
The DAPA and DACA+ court battle represented the clash of two different visions for immigrants. The Obama administration seeks to assert and extend its role in granting prosecutorial discretion to a large group of individuals. The contrasting conservative view states that the U.S. government shouldn’t be granting “amnesty” to immigrants who are in the country illegally, and can only enact measures with the approval of Congress.
Immigrant rights advocates want to emphasize this decision is not affecting the original DACA process announced June 2012.
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