Supreme Court tie blocks executive action to protect undocumented immigrants

Anusha Lalani

The U.S. Supreme Court was split, 4-4, in United States v. Texas on June 23, affirming the injunction on President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration, which would have protected nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation.  

Because of the court’s inability to reach a decision, the lower court’s ruling stands, blocking the implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and preventing the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Under DAPA, undocumented adults could remain in the U.S. if they meet certain residency requirements and have children with legal status. Under DACA, children would be allowed to stay in the country if they were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16. 

The president, who has been pressing for a change in immigration policy, expressed his disappointment with the decision. Obama attributed the court’s deadlock to the lack of a ninth justice.

“This is part of the consequence of the Republican failure so far to give a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland, my nominee to the Supreme Court,” Obama said in a statement. “It means that the expanded set of common-sense deferred action policies — the ones that I announced two years ago — can’t go forward at this stage, until there is a ninth justice on the Court to break the tie.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, on the other hand, approved of the court’s decision. 

“This is a win for the Constitution, this is a win for Congress,” he said in a statement. “Presidents don’t write laws, Congress writes laws.” 

Mayte Lara, a Crockett High School graduate who recently received nationwide recognition for her tweet about being an undocumented immigrant, said although the ruling is a setback for immigrants, she hopes the push for reform continues.

“Although DACA and DAPA didn’t go through yesterday, it will if people keep striving and fighting for it,” Lara said. “However, even when DAPA and the extension of DACA are put in place, people should and will continue to fight. These programs are only temporary, and what we really need is  comprehensive immigration reform.”

University Leadership Initiative (ULI), an organization led by undocumented youth that advocates for the rights of the undocumented community at the local, state and national levels, held a press conference Thursday discussing the decision made by the court. 

Sheridan Lagunas-Aguirre, lead coordinator of ULI and radio-television-film senior, said the ruling was unfortunate for the millions of people who have been waiting for relief from the government. 

“Five million people have been waiting close to a year and a half for the DAPA and expanded DACA programs to be implemented,” Lagunas-Aguirre said. “It’s frankly just a shame that all this waiting has resulted in the case being sent back down to the court in Brownsville, Texas where this whole political game started.”

Although Texas led the case against the Obama administration, some state officials believe the court made a mistake in its ruling. 

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt released a statement earlier today condemning the decision because of social and economic contribution by undocumented immigrants. 

“If [DAPA and DACA] had become available, thousands of undocumented parents in Travis County, who already contribute enormously to the economic and social fabric of our county, would be able to more fully participate in our community,” Eckhardt said in a statement. “Travis County will be safer when fears of deportation are alleviated, when undocumented victims and witnesses are no longer afraid to work with law enforcement officers and when children are not separated from their parents.” 

Finance junior Zahra Jaffer, who immigrated to America eight years ago, said she is not satisfied with the court’s ruling because of the many immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for so long and have established a life here. 

“The U.S. should allow people to stay here,” Jaffer said. “The court’s ruling goes against what America stands for. People deserve to be free and have a better life.”