Immigration at the Supreme Court: Redux


With United States v. Texas currently being tried before the Supreme Court, it serves well to fully understand the issues before the court and its impact on the future of American immigration policy. In November 2014, President Obama enacted executive actions meant to bypass congressional inaction and allowed millions of illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

A federal court halted the program in February of 2015 and the case arose to the Supreme Court. The eight remaining Supreme Court justices on Monday will hear from 26 states and an amici brief from the House of Representatives challenging the executive actions and affect the futures of about 4.3 million undocumented immigrants.

Obama’s executive actions instated the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) aimed particularly for parents along with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to protect their children. The programs would allow qualifying individuals to pass a background check, pay a fee, and apply for programs.

Obama’s intent was to bring forth the immigrants “living in the shadows” so they could play by the rules and pay their full taxes. Obama enacted his actions also due to the inactions of Congress, whose Gang of Eight bill failed in 2013 and Republican take-over heralded the end of immigration discussion.

Texas lead the 26 states and a federal judge sided with them, freezing the programs nationwide. The challengers to the program said the unilateral actions were unconstitutional and violated federal laws allowing agencies to establish regulations.

The first issue before the Supreme Court is whether the states are constitutionally allowed to sue since the federal government is given reign on immigration policy. Then they will decide if Obama is within his constitutional abilities to enforce the programs.

Since there are only 8 members on the Supreme Court, a 4-4 ruling would leave the lower court’s decision standing and returning to the lower court to continue litigation, leave any major decision in immigration reform for the future president to decide.