WASHINGTON, D.C. – Although the Supreme Court’s 4-4 deadlock on President Barack Obama’s executive action to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation will not set a precedent in the high court, it was a hard blow to immigrant families and their advocates. Last week the Supreme Court deadlocked over the president’s plan to defer deportation for […]
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Although the Supreme Court’s 4-4 deadlock on President Barack Obama’s executive action to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation will not set a precedent in the high court, it was a hard blow to immigrant families and their advocates.
Last week the Supreme Court deadlocked over the president’s plan to defer deportation for those who have been in the country at least five years, have not committed any serious crimes and have family ties to U.S. citizens. The case, which was brought to the court after Texas sued saying the plan, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), was an abuse of power from the executive branch.
The 4-4 ruling from last week, a consequence of a court seat remaining vacant since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, effectively leaves the appeal court ruling, which blocked DAPA, in place.
“Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: One person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law,” Ken Paxton, Texas’ attorney general, said in a statement. “This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law.”
However, for CASA, an immigration rights and advocacy organization, and families in and around Prince George’s County, the ruling was not viewed as a victory. In fact, the entire case was not about the legalities of executive power to them – it was about family.
Many in the county and in the United States fear deportation and the separation of their families, since many are made up of both undocumented immigrants and U.S citizens.
For Isabel Aguilar, a member of CASA who would have benefited from the program, the ruling was personal. Two of her children are U.S. citizens, but now DAPA is effectively blocked countrywide.
“We continue living in fear that one day we get a knock on the door and our lives will be destroyed,” Aguilar said.
Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, rebuked the decision outside of the Supreme Court and said it was a terrible blow for the more than 5 million immigrants who would have benefited from the program and will now continue to live in the same fears as Aguilar.
“We are so sad, so disappointed, but we will not stop fighting until our families are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve,” Torres said.
Torres called on President Obama to direct the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to freeze deportations. He said the Obama Administration has already overseen the deportation of more than 2.5 million people and now is the time to halt them.
“President Obama has already deported millions of people, but with this final blow of hope delivered by the Supreme Court today, he should at least stop worsening the damage to immigrant families and communities,” Torres said.
President Obama said he did not think the Supreme Court ruling will have any effect on the president’s executive action authority, but said the ruling will effectively freeze DAPA.
Now, he said, his top priority is to continue other programs that put families and longtime residents who do not have criminal records on a low priority list for deportation and put top priority on violent criminals.
“We will continue to implement existing programs that are already in place,” Obama said.
In Prince George’s County, County Executive Rushern Baker III also expressed disappointment in the high court’s ruling. He said the non-decision effectively forces millions of “innocent Americans” and Prince George’s residents to remain in the “shadows of our society,” as they remain confused and fearful of the immigration process.
“I can’t stress enough how inaction on this issue makes our jobs so difficult in providing needed services to our residents who live in fear of government officials and do not distinguish between federal, state, and local governments,” Baker said. “The Supreme Court’s inaction has enabled continuation of a confusing and disorganized immigration process and policy in this country. It is a serious problem that will remain until comprehensive immigration reform is passed.”
Baker stressed that one of the county’s greatest strengths is its diversity and the immigrant families, whether from Latin America, Europe or anywhere else, are a large part of the diversity and makeup of the county and urged Congress to act, to revisit and reconsider immigration policy.
Obama expressed a similar view and said Congress cannot ignore immigration reform forever.
“Congress is not going to be able to ignore America forever,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. We get these spasms of politics around immigration and fear-mongering, and then our traditions and our history and our better impulses kick in.”
As for CASA and immigrant families, Torres said the next step moving forward is taking their advocacy to the ballot box and voting for Congress’ members and a president who will take action.
“Our next stop is November and we are going to vote for a president who will make immigration reform a reality,” he said.