SCOTUS’ Refusal to Rehear DAPA Case Is a Reminder of What’s at Stake in This Election

Lead Photo: Reuters/Jason Redmond
Reuters/Jason Redmond
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Three months after the Supreme Court delivered a blow to millions of undocumented immigrants with its deadlocked vote for U.S. v. Texas, it announced on Monday morning, that it wouldn’t re-hear the case. On June 23, the body of eight failed to reach a decision in case, which looked at the legality of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). This measure intended to shield as many as five million undocumented immigrants who are either parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents. It allowed recipients to legally work, and it also extended protections for young people who fit under the Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The 4-4 tie came after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death changed the dynamics of the court. Without an odd-numbered body, it became obvious that justices could remain deadlocked because no one could serve as the tie-breaker. As such, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling that Obama exceeded his power stood. Led by Texas, 26 states challenged Obama’s executive action. Judge Andrew S. Hanen’s preliminary injunction has halted the program since February 2015.

Though this decision meant that millions would continue living in the shadows, many hoped that the court could reach a decision once the new president elected a ninth justice to break the tie. As it stands, the court hasn’t set a precedent. In July, the Obama administration filed a petition asking the justices to re-hear with a fully staffed court. But on Monday, the court turned down the petition, according to BuzzFeed.

The case can still make its way to the Supreme Court one day – just not under Obama’s watch. Politico speculates that it’s possible the court knows it won’t get a ninth member anytime soon, so it’s decided to put off making a decision for a while longer. But in the meantime, it means immigrant families know their fight isn’t over. To many, the court’s decision has reinforced why it’s important to vote this election season. It’s a topic that popped up over and over when people reacted to the court’s decision. Here are five groups on what’s at stake this election:

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National Immigration Law Center

“Once again, the Judiciary has allowed the politics of obstruction to prevail over justice,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director at the National Immigration Law Center. “Legal experts across the board agree that a rehearing was not only appropriate, but necessary, in U.S. v. Texas. And yet, the Justices failed to do what’s best for the country by allowing this case to be reconsidered once the Supreme Court is fully staffed. The issues in U.S. v. Texas are too big for our country to accept a decision by default by the nation’s highest court. DAPA and the expansion of DACA would provide much needed relief to millions of families who live in constant fear of being separated from their loved ones. Furthermore, the two initiatives would reap sizable economic and public safety gains for our country.

“The fact that the Supreme Court has continued to fail to act on the nation’s most pressing issues only serves to remind us that we need a fully functional court today, not next year. We call upon the Senate to do its job and provide that ninth justice without delay. Today’s decision raises the stakes for the November elections even more. Voters must turn out to ensure that we elect a president who will shape the future of the country – not just for the next four years but for decades – as she or he will get to nominate several Supreme Court justices. ”


United We Dream


Mi Familia Vota

“We are disappointed about this decision that continues to put on hold the lives of millions of immigrants that could benefit from President Obama’s temporary relief of deportation program,” Mi Familia Vota said in a statement. “This is a setback but it doesn’t mean that executive action has been defeated – the fight will continue in the courts.

“Election day is just five weeks away and we will continue to educate, empower, and mobilize the Latino community to hold accountable politicians and elected officials that have put politics over families. First, by not acting in the House to achieve a comprehensive immigration reform bill, then by obstructing the implementation of DACA+ and DAPA, and finally by not allowing a vote to have a full Supreme Court. Our community is ready to fight back in the most effective way we have: our vote!”


Nestor E. Ruiz


America's Voice

“More individuals in jurisdictions outside the 5th Circuit – from immigrants affected to attorneys general – should explore challenges against the nationwide scope of Judge Hanen’s ruling,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice. “At the same time, every American who cares about these policies needs to get registered and vote in October and November. The reason we are even here today is that Republicans at all levels are playing politics with people’s lives and the U.S. Supreme Court. We need to send a clear message this election that conduct like that will be punished. We need leaders working to find solutions for our friends and families, not trying to keep them down.”