Friday, June 24, 2016

I'm Not Dead Yet: How DAPA Has Survived the Supreme Court Decision

Yesterday, in a one sentence decision, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that they were deadlocked in the case of United States v. Texas, and therefore the Circuit Court decision stands. 

The media hailed the decision as a major defeat for President Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program. The President announced in November of 2014 that parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents present in the United States could qualify for a promise that the government will not seek their deportation and a chance to apply for work authorization. The President took matters into his own hands when he believed Congress had become deadlocked on the issue of immigration reform. Critics immediately dubbed the move amnesty. 

Texas and other states filed suit over the measure, claiming the President had no authority to implement the program without congressional authorization. Before the District Court could hold a hearing on the main case, the states sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the Administration from implementing the program while the lawsuit was pending. The District Court granted the injunction. The Administration appealed. The Circuit Court upheld the injunction. The Administration sought review before the Supreme Court. 

Meanwhile, the main case continued before the District Court. 

The Supreme Court decision concerned only the preliminary injunction. Because the main case is still pending, this means that the issue could once again reach the Supreme Court. 

What this means is that the 2016 presidential election has now become a critical election for immigration reform. Justice Antonin Scalia died this year, leaving an open Supreme Court seat. With an even number of Supreme Court justices, any case where the vote is tied means that the lower court decision stands. The Republicans in the Senate have refused to hold hearings on President Obama's nominee to take Scalia's seat. 

This means that the new President will have the power to appoint a new justice, and thereby break the deadlock before the main case reaches the Supreme Court.  The fight over DAPA, therefore is not over; its fate rests in the hands of the voters. 

By: William J. Kovatch, Jr. 

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