Obama's Immigration Legacy Lies In The Hands Of The Supreme Court

by
Priyanka Prasad
The Supreme Court is split over whether states can sue the federal government.

immigration laws

President Obama’s executive order that fought against deportation for about 4 million undocumented immigrants has been challenged in the Supreme Court thanks to Texas; however, the court doesn’t appear ready to rule in the state’s favor.

The case, United States v. Texas, centered around whether Texas and 25 other states could sue the federal government, “[challenging] Obama's authority to implement the policy by executive action, rather than going through Congress.”

In 2014, Obama announced the “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Resident” (DAPA) program, which established protections for 4 million parents who were undocumented immigrants.

As expected, the court was split down the middle, with conservative justices John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy claiming that Obama’s order concerning immigration was something necessary to be legislated by Congress. Kennedy declared, “It’s as if the president is defining the policy and the Congress is executing it. That’s just upside down.”

However, Justice Stephen Breyer countered that if these states sued, “every case of political disagreement where states disagree [with the federal government] would come before the court.” Other liberal justices appeared to agree.

The consequences of this ruling determine whether these 4 million undocumented immigrants will be granted work authorization and protection from deportation.

During an Obama administration heavily criticized by liberals for its deportation raids, a favorable ruling for the immigrants could help cement Obama’s legacy as one that protected immigrant rights, rather than dismantled them. According to ThinkProgress, many of Obama's deportation raids have involved "Central American mothers and children who have final orders of removal or have exhausted all their legal options to stay in the country."

This has sparked outrage amongst immigration rights activists; it seems unfathomable that Obama, a Democratic president, has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other preisdent, including George W. Bush. 

He may be attempting to atone for the deportations through programs such as DAPA and DACA (Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals), but without backup from the Supreme Court, his legacy may be staunchly anti-immigrant. 

The ruling from the courts is crucial, as a 4-4 split in Justice Antonin Scalia’s absence would defer to the lower court’s ruling, which ruled in favor of Texas. If the split were to occur, it would keep a “national injunction” against Obama’s executive action in place.

The hearings will continue, and it remains to be seen whether one of the conservative justices will flip over to a more liberal ruling on this issue.

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