Court Punts on Immigration, Ensuring More Deadlock to Come

By Daily Editorials

June 24, 2016 4 min read

The Supreme Court is as deadlocked as the rest of America's leadership when it comes to millions of undocumented migrants within our borders. On Thursday, on a 4-4 vote, the court punted one of the most important decisions of this term, one dealing with President Barack Obama's program to block deportation enforcement against up to 5 million individuals.

Obama contended he had the executive authority to halt deportations of undocumented immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents. His was both an overt act of politics, designed to provoke the Republican majority in Congress into action on immigration reform, and an act of compassion to stop authorities from yanking parents away from their children. He was right to take a stand.

The Supreme Court didn't buy the administration's arguments that its program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was a constitutionally valid circumvention of immigration enforcement procedures mandated by Congress.

Texas and 25 other states argued that the administration was saddling them with the health care, education and criminal justice costs of coping with high numbers of undocumented migrants — all because the federal government had failed to do its job sealing the border and arresting those crossing illegally.

Those states have a point. They should not have to pay for the federal government's failures. A federal judge in Texas, Andrew Hanen, ruled in 2015 that DAPA was unconstitutional. Because the Supreme Court deadlocked, Hanen's ruling will stand.

If Texas and its allies truly want justice, they should now find a way to sue Congress. That's the body responsible for the impasse on immigration. It's also responsible for the court deadlock, since the Senate refuses to consider Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, for the vacant ninth seat created by Justice Antonin Scalia's death in February.

Since 2007, Democratic and Republican administrations have tried, but failed to advance reasonable, responsible immigration reform packages. Few topics are as poisonous as immigration reform, particularly for Republicans.

Any Republican who entertains a plan to regularize the status of 11 million undocumented migrants gets slapped with the scarlet letter A for "amnesty." He or she can be certain of a costly primary challenge from someone further to the right. So they run from immigration reform like it's Ebola — or sensible gun laws.

Politicians like Donald Trump will continue to tout absurd plans for building border walls and deporting everyone who is here illegally. There simply isn't enough money to build a wall, nor buses, trains, planes and boats to deport all 11 million. Nor are the American people that cruel.

Obama was correct to intervene unilaterally. Judge Hanen ruled that the president overstepped his constitutional boundaries, but at least he tried to do something. That's more than anyone can say for Congress.


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