What the Supreme Court deadlock on Obama’s executive actions means
Friday, August 12, 2016
In June, the Supreme Court deadlocked, with a 4-4 split decision, in United States v. Texas, the case in which several Republican governors challenged President Obama’s November 2014 executive action on immigration. The immediate ramifications of the deadlock are that the U.S. District Court’s decision finding the executive actions illegal will stand.
The larger consequence of the split decision is no movement in the political stalemate over immigration in the United States.
While the challenge in U.S. v. Texas dealt largely with orders regarding undocumented immigrants, the failure of the High Court to avoid a tie in deciding the case – knowing, of course, that in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death there are only eight justices on the Court – demonstrates just how entrenched both sides are on immigration, in general. The Court’s decision reflects the immigration quagmire in Congress, which continues to nitpick and quibble along party lines instead of taking a real look at the nation’s aging immigration system, as a whole. It is clear that without modernizing immigration systems and policies, the current system will become even more chaotic than it appears to be already.
It has been more than a quarter century since U.S. immigration laws were updated in any meaningful way. During that time, tech has boomed, the Internet became a public utility and the way we communicate with one another has radically changed. The economy is more global than it has ever been. Immigration policy has failed to adjust to the tech-heavy globalization of the last 25 years.
One side of the party line fears that immigrants will “take” jobs from native-born citizens. At the same time, we are failing to graduate enough such citizens to fill the growing demand for STEM jobs. Meanwhile, H1-B visa quotas mean that the pool of potential workers from other countries – including those educated and trained in the United States — remains limited to levels that cannot keep up with U.S. demand for STEM talent.
The Supreme Court decision effectively draws the third and final branch of government into the country’s current immigration paralysis. Unless the coming election brings a significant change in the makeup of Congress and the subsequent confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, a new president will simply not be enough to pull our country out of this quagmire of immigration. Practical and realistic immigration reform is necessary not only to heal the divisiveness in our country but also to ensure U.S. competitiveness on a global scale.
On July 18, the Department of Justice petitioned the Supreme Court to rehear the case since its deadlocked decision has no precedential value. It is rare for the Court to grant such petitions but is more common during terms when there is a vacancy.