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Hope for Immigration Action Now Rests with Supreme Court

Hope for Immigration Action Now Rests with Supreme Court

The Obama administration faced a major setback in its immigration reform plan earlier this month when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in a 2-1 ruling to uphold a lower court’s stay on the President’s executive action on immigration. In response, the RAC issued a statement expressing disappointment with the ruling:

“Our immigration system is broken and, in the absence of movement on legislation in Congress, President Obama’s executive action presents the best means of addressing some if its shortcomings.”

The reform plan, which was initially unveiled in November 2014 as an executive order, would expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and create a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program, protecting up to 5 million undocumented immigrants.

The majority argued in its decision that the President had overstepped his constitutional authority in issuing an executive action that would “change the immigration classification of millions of illegal aliens on a case-wide basis.” Meanwhile, the administration maintains that the proposal, which changes deportation priorities to avoid targeting families, lies fully within the powers of the Executive branch.

If there is a silver lining for the White House in the Fifth Circuit ruling, it is that it came soon enough for the Supreme Court to be able to hear the case this term. The administration has already announced its intention to appeal the case to the Supreme Court, but the President and his team are operating under a tight schedule. The entire process could be delayed until next term if the state government of Texas, which won the initial injunction, refuses to willfully comply with the appeal decision.

In the event that the Court does agree to hear the case this term, it is hard to predict what decision could be reached. The case touches on contentious issues of separation of power between the branches of the federal government and between the state and federal governments, which will likely create divisions among the justices.

What is clear is that much more is at stake in this case than just President Obama’s legacy. Drawing on the Jewish people’s long history of living as strangers, the Reform Movement has long called for a just and humane immigration system that balances a need to reduce illegal immigration with just treatment of those undocumented immigrants already living in the United States. While the executive action remains on hold, thousands of families continue to live in constant fear of deportation. The Supreme Court is the last and best chance for the President’s program to achieve its benevolent ends.

Adam Waters is a 2015-2016 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He grew up in Coral Springs, FL, and was a member of Temple Beth Orr. Adam graduated from Brown University.

Adam Waters

Published: 11/20/2015