A divided Supreme Court allowed a hold on the Obama administration’s immigration policy to continue, disappointing Catholic advocates of immigration reform.
The Court’s decision “shatters the hopes of millions of immigrants who might otherwise have obtained temporary relief from immigration enforcement under two Obama administration programs,” the Catholic Legal Immigration Network stated on Thursday.
With a 4-4 tie vote, the Supreme Court let stand the lower courts’ decisions in United States v. Texas. In 2015 the district court, had allowed a temporary block on the Obama administration’s executive actions on immigration. This was upheld by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court.
The executive actions initially came in the form of a 2012 program entitled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program would allow children of undocumented immigrants — children who were born in the U.S. and had met certain conditions — to stay for up to two years without deportation.
In November of 2014, the administration expanded that program and created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.
Under the new program, certain undocumented immigrants — parents of children born in the U.S. and who met certain conditions — could stay in the U.S. for up to three years without deportation. To be eligible they had to have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, passed a background check, and would have to pay taxes.
“An estimated 5 million people could have potentially benefited from the two programs,” CLINIC stated.
Twenty-six states, led by Texas, asked that the 2014 actions — the creation of DAPA and the expansion of DACA — be checked from going into effect until the matter was decided in court. A district court granted the stay in 2015. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling. The administration then appealed to the Supreme Court to overrule the lower courts’ decisions.
In an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in March, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argued that the administration’s immigration action keeps families together and prevents immigrants from living in the shadows to avoid deportation. “Family unification is an integral consideration in the application of immigration law,” the brief stated.
However, since the Supreme Court was divided in a 4-4 vote, it stated that the lower courts’ “judgment” was “affirmed by an equally divided Court.”
Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of CLINIC, said the organization was “extremely disappointed” over the court’s decision.
“The tied vote means millions of long-term U.S. residents continue to be blocked from the chance to live with their families without fear of deportation, while working legally and attaining a college education,” she stated.
These people are living “in fear of law enforcement and at risk of mistreatment in the workplace, by landlords and from abusers due to threats of deportation,” she continued.
Congress should work to pass long-term immigration reform to provide a lasting solution, to the problem she added, “ensuring that millions of families have a path to legal residency and eventually citizenship in their adopted country.”
Catholic bishops from Texas and New Mexico also expressed their disappointment over the Court’s vote.
“Our nation's immigration policies are broken,” stated the Texas Catholic bishops, adding that this ruling serves to keep many of our youngest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters “living in the shadows.”
President Obama’s executive actions came from “years of painstaking work and committed efforts by migrant advocates, grassroots organizations, some legislators and the faith community,” stated Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas.
“The scandal of a broken system that criminalizes and scapegoats immigrants who fight for a better life for their children and families that contribute every day to our economy and communities is laid bare once again by the decision of the Supreme Court,” they added.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston criticized Congress’ “piecemeal” attempts to pass “even the most basic of reforms” of the immigration system. “Respect for human life and dignity demands that our national leaders put people, especially children and youth, before politics,” he stated.