A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Supreme Court Affirmed Block of Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens/Residents

Perhaps the recent Supreme Court decision should not come as a big surprise.  After the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court was left with only eight (8) Justices, and a 4-4 split decision is likely in cases involving controversial or political issues. In United States vs. Texas, the U.S. Government requested to overturn an injunction against implementation of two immigration programs initiated by the Obama Administration - (1) Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), (2) Expanded Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Since the Supreme Court was equally divided along ideological lines, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision blocking these programs was affirmed.

The DAPA and expanded DACA programs have been opposed by conservative groups right from the beginning.  Deferred action programs are nothing new in the context of immigration.  In fact, previous presidents from both the Republican and Democratic parties, including Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush and Obama, have taken similar actions to alleviate various immigration problems.  

Ordinarily the legislative branch of the government should pass laws to handle immigration matters including individuals who are in the U.S. illegally. Unfortunately due to political reasons, the partition Congress has not been able to function properly. In the absence of Congressional acts, it is both reasonable and necessary for the executive branch to take appropriate actions.  Deferred action is one of the inherent powers of the president that can be used to deal with millions of individual unlawfully present in the U.S.  United States vs. Texas tested the limits of this executive power. 

The Supreme Court decision in Texas, however, may not be as significant as the headlines suggest. First of all, the split decision sets no Supreme Court precedent. In fact, the Court only issued a one-line decision without opinions.  Since it was an equally split decision, the lower court's decision will stand automatically. It is also important to note that Supreme Court decision does not affect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) of 2012.  Individuals who were found eligible under the 2012 DACA program may continue to extend their deferred action status under the existing regulations.  

It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court was not able to take this opportunity to settle the challenge to deferred action and set legal guidance for future programs.  However, there will be other opportunities for precedent decisions by the Supreme Court, as federal courts continue to hear and decide cases involving similar immigrant issues.   One thing that we can rely on is that America's immigration laws and policies never stay the same for too long.  Political changes (Ex. presidential elections), economic climate, shifts in cultural paradigms, etc., will keep on changing that nation's policies and attitudes towards immigration.  

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