Supreme Court immigration decision: No precedent but a setback for immigrants

Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

On June 23, a 4-4 split Supreme Court reaffirmed the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in United States v. Texas No. 15-674. The ruling upheld an injunction against President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action Deferred Action for Parents of Americans.

DAPA would allow unauthorized immigrants who are the parents of lawful residents to apply for work permits and avoid deportation.

Linda Kelly

Linda Kelly

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and 25 other Republican governors immediately challenged the program. They argued that DAPA caused the states irreparable monetary harm.

The one-line decision was both lauded and denounced along party lines as a defeat for immigration reform advocates.

But the court’s decision will not be as legally influential as typical Supreme Court opinions, said Linda Kelly, the M. Dale Palmer professor of law at the IU McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

“It’s just an injunction. The case is still ongoing,” Kelly said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling does not affect the case as it continues to be tried in Texas.

In the case heard by the Supreme Court, the Texas litigants argued for an injunction against DAPA while the case was playing out more slowly through the system.

“The injunction is a temporary hold,” Kelly said. “It’s not a full challenge to President Obama’s authority. At this stage, it’s narrower.”

The ruling affects only the future of DAPA, not other immigration programs already in place, Kelly said.

“The ruling prevents new programs from starting. That’s bad from an immigrant’s and an advocate’s perspective. It’s heartbreaking,” Kelly said. “But there’s no immediate damage done to existing programs.”

And the ruling won’t affect future immigration cases either.

“The case doesn’t have precedential authority,” Kelly said. “All they did was reaffirm the decision. It can’t be cited by anybody.”

But the ruling does leave the nearly five million immigrants who meet DAPA’s eligibility requirements in limbo as they await the full case’s decision.

The litigation now continues back at the federal district court. It is possible that, in the coming years, it will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit and again to the Supreme Court.

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