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Supreme Court Immigration Ruling Leaves Millions in Legal Limbo


  • Joe Ravi | Wikimedia Commons
With just nine words, the U.S. Supreme Court dashed the hopes of millions of undocumented immigrants hoping to stall their deportation.

"The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court," reads the one-sentence ruling on President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) immigration order. Obama's plan would have shielded more than four million people from deportation.

The Supreme Court's ruling means that a temporary injunction halting the program issued by Andrew Hanen, a federal judge based in Brownsville, in February 2015 will remain intact.

Hanen, who is presiding over the lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states, is clearly not a fan of DAPA. Since he began hearing the case, Hanen has admonished Department of Justice lawyers, accusing them of misrepresenting information. Last month, Hanen ordered DOJ lawyers to turn over names, addresses and contact information for thousands of young immigrants, stoking fear in immigrant communities.

Amy Howe, a journalist with the SCOTUSblog, wrote that Hanen ordered a hearing for August, which is about ethics issues and the private information of immigrants.

Michelle Tremillo, who will soon take the helm as executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, said the ruling is heartbreaking for families living in the shadows who have sought legal status for years.

“While we are grieving, our drive to win immigration reform remains intact. Even before the decision was handed down, our members had resolved that no matter what the Supreme Court decided, we were going to continue fighting. And that is what we will do," Tremillo said in a statement.

Maria Teresa Kumar, president of the nonprofit Voto Latino, said the ruling is a setback that also underscores the importance of having a full nine-member Supreme Court. After the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, Republicans in Congress blocked Obama's efforts to nominate a new judge to the bench.

"For those who ever question the importance of those nine robes appointed by our elected President, this is why we vote," Kumar said in a statement.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the ruling without ever mentioning immigration. Instead, Paxton says the decision that leaves millions of undocumented immigrants in legal limbo, is a victory against the executive branch.

“Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: one person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law," Paxton said in a statement. "This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law.”

The Texas Tribune reports that Paxton will likely seek a permanent injunction.

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