Hamstrung Supreme Court Deadlocks in Immigration Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday deadlocked (4-4) in United States v. Texas, a case challenging the Obama administration’s expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiative. Both were stopped by a federal district court in Texas, and that court’s order subsequently was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

“For undocumented immigrants who are our neighbors, friends, and family members, working hard to build a better life for themselves and our country, today’s nondecision is an especially bitter pill,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference. “Instead of receiving the clarity they need around the President’s commonsense DAPA and DACA-plus programs, they must continue to cope with the uncertainty and risk of needless deportations and family separations. And because immigration is not only a human rights issue but also an economic one, all Americans will pay the price for this uncertainty.”

In March, a diverse coalition of 326 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups filed an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief in the case.

President Obama announced DAPA and expanded DACA in November 2014 – at the end of the 113th Congress – after Congress failed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The Senate passed (68-32) a bill in July 2013, but the House never brought the bill up for a vote.

Thursday’s decision comes 99 days after President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the ninth seat on the Supreme Court. Senate Republicans have vowed to keep the seat vacant until a new president takes office in January 2017.

“The blame for this outcome falls squarely on Senate Republicans, who have spent months playing politics by refusing to consider Chief Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to fill the vacant ninth seat on the Supreme Court, who this week earned the American Bar Association’s unanimous top rating of ‘well qualified’ to serve on the Court,” Henderson said. “The obstinate refusal of Senate Republicans to do their constitutional duty to fill the vacancy and bring the Court back to its full capacity has now resulted in a litany of tie decisions – including a second case today involving tribal courts – which are making a mockery of justice and the rule of law in our nation.”

Read the United States v. Texas decision here.