Today’s debate at the Supreme Court will determine if the President abused his authority by imposing allegedly onerous rules on states. Behind the legalese lies the future of millions of people who, despite having stayed in the U.S. long enough to integrate fully into our society, still live in the shadows and under permanent threat of deportation.
The case U.S. vs. Texas ‒ which addressed the expansion of the DACA program for minors brought into the country by their undocumented parents ‒ and the DAPA program ‒ which protects and grants work permits to the parents of U.S.-born children ‒ has reached the Supreme Court at an unusual moment, both because it is an election year and because the Court is currently incomplete due to the passing of Judge Antonin Scalia.
While the political climate surrounding immigration has been tense for a long time, the fact that the Republican primary has become a witch hunt against undocumented people has made the situation worse.
On the other hand, Scalia’s death took a conservative judge believed to be opposed to Obama’s executive actions out of the equation. While the Court will not be able to make a 5-4 vote, a tie would produce a similar result, allowing the preliminary injunction issued to block the executive orders to remain in place.
All eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy. Often more pragmatic than his fellow judges, in the past his vote has swayed sides and has frequently turned out to be the decisive one. The hopes of millions of families are set on Kennedy, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan.
Presenting the arguments will take only 90 minutes, in which dozens of documents in favor and against the programs will influence the judges’ decision. We hope that the justices will take into account that the numerous legal precedents involving executive orders, as well as the specific context of DACA and DAPA. Using executive decisions to determine the priorities of federal agencies is an accepted presidential power. In this case, making a priority of deporting the most dangerous undocumented criminals while temporarily protecting a category of immigrants who are integrated into U.S. society may be controversial, but not illegal.
DACA and DAPA only signify temporary relief and they could be annulled by the next president but, right now, they are the only alternative to provide millions of men, women and youths who are part of our society the peace of mind of knowing that their families will be separated.