High Stakes for a US Supreme Court Immigration Case
April 19, Washington: The sole case on the United States Supreme Court’s calendar this morning is a challenge to President Barack Obama’s executive actions granting temporary legal status to unauthorized immigrants who have US citizen children. If the Court rules in favor of the administration, the actions would protect millions of people from the immediate threat of deportation.
When the executive actions were announced on November 20, 2014, I was at a dinner with my boss, Alison Parker, and hundreds of Human Rights Watch supporters. It was an emotional moment. As Alison told the group that night, we finally – finally – could celebrate some small measure of progress toward addressing the US’s broken immigration system, which leaves millions of unauthorized immigrants, who live and work in the US, vulnerable to work place abuses, sexual assault, lack of police protection, and separation from their families.
Then a major roadblock: Twenty-six states filed a lawsuit in Texas aimed at halting the program, claiming that the President’s plan to grant temporary legal status to these parents exceeds the executive branch’s authority. In February of last year, a judge in Texas ordered the government to hold its rollout while the states’ claims were decided.
The paused program is unprecedented in scope, if incomplete and imperfect. It would grant temporary authorization to an estimated 4.5 million more unauthorized immigrants living in the United States (currently about 1.2 million are eligible for a previous program granting temporary protection to some immigrants who arrived as children). The key qualifiers for protection under the new program are being the parent of a US citizen child and not having a recent departure or deportation from the country or certain criminal convictions.
There is a real chance of an even split among the court, which would send the matter back down to the federal district court to be litigated. This would mean, at best, a long delay in putting the program in place. There is no realistic prospect of Congress stepping in anytime soon to resolve the issue with reasonable legislation.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for the 4.5 million people impacted. The Court’s decision will determine whether parents will be able to send their kids to school with the confidence that they’ll be there to pick them up when the last bell rings. It will determine whether workers can stand up to employers who refuse to pay them, or worse; and whether community members can call the police or an ambulance if they need to – all without fear of being deported.
The Oslo Times