Outraged. Disheartened. Sad. That is what millions of immigrant families, advocates for immigrant justice, and their allies are feeling after yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v Texas.
In a nondecision, the Supreme Court issued a one-sentence declaration admitting they simply couldn’t decide on the case, effectively preventing President Obama’s immigration initiatives from going into effect. The erroneous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit—and the extraordinary nationwide injunction blocking these initiatives—will remain in place. And our families’ dreams will remain on hold.
The programs at issue, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), would bring much-needed emotional and economic relief to immigrants with deep ties to the United States. Under these programs, aspiring Americans who qualify could voluntarily come forward and apply for temporary deportation relief and work authorization.
Instead, they will continue to live in legal limbo. Many political pundits and legal observers will discuss whether this is a “victory” for plaintiffs or a “loss” for Obama. The truth is that this nondecision is a loss for all of us who care about immigrant communities and about the rule of law.
The Supreme Court, like the judicial system as a whole, should be the place we as a society go to receive fair hearings and decisions based not on politics, but on the legal frameworks that guide us. Unfortunately, the system failed in this case.
Plaintiffs in this politically driven lawsuit found a judge inclined to agree with them, and this judge happened to be in a circuit friendly to their claims. The Supreme Court had the opportunity—and the obligation—to dismiss this case as a political farce and firmly shut the courthouse doors to politicians who too often engage in lawsuits to win policy battles.
This is precisely why we are not giving up now. We call upon the Department of Justice to seek a rehearing on this case once the court is fully staffed. Five million families deserve more than a nondecision from the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, we will work in communities to protect our families from deportation and to advocate for immigrant-inclusive policies at the local, state, and federal levels. Immigrants fought for—and won—these important policy victories. Undocumented mothers, workers, and children organized, advocated, and engaged in civil disobedience to underscore the need for relief, and this advocacy will not stop simply because anti-immigrant politicians managed to block these initiatives temporarily.
Our advocacy won’t stop there. We will also bring our commitment to justice to the courts, engaging in creative litigation if necessary to protect the fundamental rights of all immigrants, and especially to defend the original DACA program, which has already had a life-changing impact on over 730,000 young immigrants and was not part of this legal challenge.
The court’s tied vote also underscores the need for us to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy. President Obama has nominated a justice, and he deserves a fair hearing by the Senate. We will continue to advocate and educate our communities about the toll this vacancy takes on our country’s ability to carry out justice, here and in so many other consequential legal issues.
U.S. citizen children like Sophie Cruz will feel the worst effects of this miscarriage of justice. Far too many little boys and girls like Sophie head to school each day not knowing whether their parents will be there to hug them that night. The psychological and emotional toll this uncertainty places on these children is enormous.
Ultimately, these protections are only temporary. As voters, community members, and leaders, we must mobilize to fight for true and lasting changes to immigration policy to allow all people, regardless of where we were born or how much money we have, to live freely and contribute fully to our communities.
We at the National Immigration Law Center have always been inspired by the courage of immigrants, and have deep faith in the resilience of our communities. This is a fight for the soul of our nation, and we are committed to working towards a country that fills our basic human needs: dignity, belonging, safety, and resilience.