Tech-Backed Immigration Actions Blocked By SCOTUS Split Decision
Antonia Surco, originally from Peru, holds a sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on a day where two important decisions on immigration and affirmative action were handed down by the court, on June 23, 2016 in Washington, DC.
The Supreme Court reached a split decision Thursday on a contentious immigration case that would have allowed President Obama’s executive actions on immigration to proceed. The actions, which were blocked by a Texas court last February, would have protected undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, as well as the undocumented parents of United States citizens, from deportation. Now, the deadlocked decision means the Texas court’s injunction will stand, leaving millions of people vulnerable.
President Obama said the split decision reflects Congress’s failure to confirm a new Supreme Court justice following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia this winter. “The court’s inability to reach a decision in this case is a very clear reminder of why it’s so important for the Supreme Court to have a full bench,” President Obama said.
The actions called for an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a policy which was first introduced in 2012 and led to a generation of so-called DREAMers. The actions also created a new policy called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.
This March, more than 60 tech leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and more, filed a friend of the court brief arguing in favor of the expansion of DACA and DAPA. It laid out the economic arguments for letting the executive actions stand.
“America’s immigration enforcement policies should ensure that immigrants’ ingenuity, skills, and entrepreneurial spirit are contributing to the US economy,” the brief read, “and deferred action policies are a helpful start.”
Zuckerberg, meanwhile, wrote a Facebook post about the brief, advocating as he often does, for legislation that will connect people, rather than drive them apart. “We are a nation of immigrants. We are one world,” Zuckerberg wrote. “And we are all connected. We must have the humanity to welcome in these children and to bring people together — and that’s what we told the Supreme Court today.”
Zuckerberg and Hoffman are two of the co-founders of the advocacy group FWD.us, which has been fighting for immigration reform since 2013, when the so-called “gang of eight” was working to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate. That bill failed to pass after House Republicans blocked a vote in 2014. Since then, FWD.us has been working to promote Obama’s executive actions and, more recently, publicly condemn presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s mass deportation plans.
Though immigration advocates hoped the court would overturn Texas’s injunction, even a vote in Obama’s favor would have been temporary. The next President will have to the power continue or cancel the executive actions. Hillary Clinton supports them, but if Trump wins the election in November, he would almost surely overturn the actions regardless. In other words, even if groups like FWD.us got their way today, it wouldn’t be the end of the fight.
Now, Todd Schulte, executive director of FWD.us says he hopes the decision will motivate immigration voters to turn out in November to prevent Trump from dealing even further setbacks to the immigration movement. “The way this gets done here,” Schulte said in a recent interview with WIRED, “is Donald Trump has to lose badly, and we force Congress to act.”
In a statement following the decision, Schulte tried to assure supporters. “I want to be absolutely clear,” he said, “today’s decision is not the end of the road in our fight for families, and FWD.us will continue to fight every single day to fix our broken immigration system.”