All of you know by now that the US Supreme Court heard the case against the president and his Executive Action and reached a split decision (as a result of the late Justice Scalia’s unfilled seat on the bench) that stopped the progress of the DAPA and expanded DACA programs. This decision brings up many new questions for those with immigration issues who had hoped to be able to take a large step forward in improving their situations here in the US.
First of all, how does the Supreme Court work? The Supreme Court is the top federal court that is the final authority on federal matters that were not able to be resolved in lower federal courts or through federal appeals courts. Although immigration law is federal (not state or local) law, the lawsuit against the president and his administration was not specifically about immigration law. The argument of the lawsuit was that President Obama was trying to overreach his executive power through his “executive action” last November. The lawsuit was presented by half of the states in the country arguing that the President was using power that was not given to him through the constitution.
How did DAPA get to the Supreme Court? The judge in charge of the original case issued an order stopping the president from moving forward with the DAPA & expanded DACA programs while the court decided if his executive action was abuse of power. This stopped the DAPA program from moving forward. The Obama administration then appealed the decision to the federal appeals court arguing that he did have the power to make the DAPA program and the judge’s order stopping him should be removed. That court also rejected the president’s argument and denied his appeal. The president then decided to ask the Supreme Court to hear his case to try to change the decision of the lower judges. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court reached a tied decision which allowed for the original decisions to remain valid, therefore stopping DAPA until an unknown future time.
What is a split decision and how did it happen? The Supreme Court has an odd number of justices (judges) specifically so that no decision will result in a tie and be blocked from moving forward. The odd person is always the tie breaker. Due to the passing of late Justice Scalia, currently there is an even number of justices making it very likely that a split-decision could occur since half the Supreme Court is liberal and the other half is mostly conservative. That is exactly what has happened with this decision.
Who does this decision affect? In the short-term, this decision only affects parents of children born in the US who were planning on applying for DAPA or those individuals who were not eligible for the original DACA, but were going to apply for the expanded DACA program. This decision does NOT impact the original DACA program in any way. Anyone who has already received DACA or those who still meet the requirements of the program can continue to use DACA.
In the long-term, having a program like DAPA is extremely important since it impacts many areas of our culture. With it, individuals who obtain temporary, renewable work authorization will be able to improve their income, better support themselves and their families and in turn will generate additional tax revenue for local and state governments. With it, consumption of services and products will significantly increase generating wealth at all levels. With it, families who have lived in the US for decades will be able to participate in our communities without fear of negative immigration consequences. This will also add much value and prosperity to our country.
Is all hope for DAPA gone? Not at all! Although this decision is very disappointing to an estimated 3.7 million parents and their US citizen children who were the intended beneficiaries of this program, this was not the end of the road for the program. It may take time, but Congress can create and pass a law that accomplishes the same goals of the DAPA program. It is not time to give up hope! The level of interest that our people, business, political and community leaders have in immigration reform is at an all-time high and the momentum immigration reform has gained will only increase. We need to keep our faith alive and continue to promote a long-term solution to our country’s immigration problems.