Supreme Court deadlocks on immigration case

Karla Cano faces uncertainty. She had expected to qualify for deferred action under the Obama administration’s executive orders on immigration. But a tied decision by the U.S. Supreme Court creates uncertainty for Cano and her family.

“All that is unjust about my situation will continue,” said Cano, 21, a senior at Mount Mary University and the mother of a 2-year-old son.

“I am in college so I can have a career helping others, but I cannot start a career like that without work authorization,” she said. “We just want to help this country and support our families like anyone else.”

The court on June 23 deadlocked on President Barack Obama’s executive actions taken to shield millions living in the United States from deportation.

The 4–4 tie means the next president and a new Congress will determine any change in U.S. immigration policy. The president said the court’s deadlock “takes us further from the country we aspire to be.”

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president, called the court ruling unacceptable and pledged to “do everything possible under the law to go further to protect families.”

The dispute before the eight justices — the case was heard in April, after the death of Antonin Scalia — was over the legality of the administration’s orders creating “deferred action for parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents” or DAPA and expanding “deferred action for childhood arrivals” or DACA.

Basically the actions would have provided protection from deportation and three-year work permits to about 5 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as undocumented people who came to the United States before the age of 16.

The president announced the orders in 2014 and, soon after, they were challenged by 26 states led by Republican governors, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Federal district and appeals courts sided with the states and said the executive office lacked the authority to issue orders shielding immigrants from deportation.

The high court tie means the appeals court ruling stands. But the ruling in United States v. Texas did not set any landmark standards in the dispute over immigration.

The U.S. Justice Department brought the case to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the appeals court decision.

The American Civil Liberties Union was among the many groups to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said, the “4–4 tie has a profound impact on millions of American families whose lives will remain in limbo and who will now continue the fight. In setting the DAPA guidelines, President Obama exercised the same prosecutorial discretion his predecessors have wielded without controversy and ultimately the courts should hold that the action was lawful.”

Reaction from the U.S. progressive community was swift and compassionate.

“This split decision deals a severe blow to millions of immigrant families who have already been waiting more than 18 months for the DAPA and DACA programs to be implemented,” said Alianza Americas’ executive director Oscar Chacón. “The cold fact is that millions of parents and children will go to bed tonight knowing once again that their families could be torn apart at any moment.”

At the Center for Popular Democracy, co-executive director Ana Maria Archila said, “If the highest court in the land cannot find a majority for justice and compassion, there is something truly broken in our system of laws, checks and balances.”

In Wisconsin, Voces de la Frontera held news conferences in Green Bay, Madison and in Milwaukee. LULAC, Centro Hispano and the Southside Organizing Committee also were involved.

“This is very sad for me,” said Jose Flores, a factory worker, father of four and also the president of Voces de la Frontera. “I have been waiting and fighting for reform like DAPA for years. But we are not giving up. I refuse … to shrink back into the shadows.”

Cano, a member of Voces de la Frontera, said, “I am not giving up on the struggle. We need more people to get involved in the upcoming elections, because this decision shows the importance of both the presidential and U.S. congressional elections and whom the next president will nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court.”