What’s Next for Immigrants Without Documentation After the SCOTUS Ruling?

“It has a very high human cost – not only to those who would have benefitted from protection, but to their U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children.”

By Rhonda FanningJune 23, 2016 11:31 am| ,

The Supreme Court tied Thursday morning in a ruling on the legality of President Barack Obama’s immigration program.

The ruling United States v. Texas is a big victory for Texas and the 25 other states that sued to halt Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) in 2014. DAPA allows temporary deportation relief to people who may be living in the United States illegally for more than five years and whose children are U.S. citizens. Eligible persons may also apply for three-year work visas.

The 26 states argued that Obama hijacked the Congress’s authority by shaping immigration policies through executive action.

In what some are calling a blow to Obama in his final months of presidency, the split decision upholds a lower court’s ruling that Obama’s order is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s February 15 ruling was upheld by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A tie ruling by the Supreme Court means lower court rulings stand.

Elissa Steglich, clinical professor in the University of Texas at Austin’s Immigration Clinic, says this split decision is disappointing to the millions of individuals who would have benefitted from the DAPA program.

“The court’s tie vote essentially leaves the status quo, which is a nationwide injunction prohibiting the Obama administration from moving forward with the program,” Steglich says. “(The ruling) certainly has impact on millions of individuals, and it has a very high human cost – not only to those who would have benefitted from protection – but to their U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children.”

Steglich says that there may be increased political mobilization around immigration advocacy and policy as a result of the ruling.

“The administration was not able to answer the call for stability,” she says. “In terms of organizing amongst the immigration community … there is the opportunity to organize and call for change. Who knows what we’ll see in terms of the next president and the next congress. There will be changes there.”

“The case can be viewed in a variety of different ways. … It will place certain limits and caution on how (the next president) can proceed in immigration solutions that had traditionally been thought to be very very robust and now remain slightly more tailored.”

Advocacy groups may also step up and pledge to assist immigrants who are affected by providing access to counsel and a better understanding of immigration law, Steglich says.

Although Obama’s main focus was DAPA, there was an expansion to another program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, included in the order. DACA allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country, before their 16th birthday and before June 2007, to receive exemption from deportation and a renewable two-year work permit.

The initial DACA program withstood legal challenge, but the expansion is also under injunction as of this ruling.

“It’s important to remember that the DACA and DAPA programs were never intended to be a permanent solution, but rather just a step in the right direction awaiting change in the law from Congress,” Steglich says. “That is still the ultimate hope.”

Web post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.