An eight-member Supreme Court was unable to address an immigration case that impacts millions of families and our economy, showing just how damaging a short-handed Court can be. In United States v. Texas, the most important immigration case to reach the Supreme Court in decades, the justices split 4-4 leaving millions of immigrant families in limbo with a one-sentence non-decision.
The case was brought to the Supreme Court by a group of politically-motivated Republican governors and attorneys general from 26 states who hoped to block two parts of President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration: expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). DAPA and expanded DACA were created to help parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders, as well as DREAMers who came to the U.S. as children and lived here their entire lives.
Without even issuing an opinion or presenting reasoning, the split Supreme Court today permitted a decision from a single federal court to have a profound impact on the lives of millions across the country. The President’s actions would keep millions of families together and give them with the opportunity to contribute more fully to the economy. But after today, an estimated 4 million immigrants will remain vulnerable to deportation and more than 6 million U.S. citizens will continue to live in fear of the separation of their families.
Blocking DAPA and expanded DACA isn’t just a loss for millions of American families, it is also a loss for the entire U.S. economy. Every day the programs are blocked the U.S. loses $29.9 million in GDP—already delay of the programs has cost the country more than 8.2 billion in lost cumulative GDP.
The split Court means that there is no decision that will bind future court decisions and the case may continue to proceed through the courts until it is heard in front of a full Supreme Court. The split decision also means that the fight for families will continue in November, when voters will choose between two presidential candidates with drastically different views on the future of immigration in the United States.
One bright spot in today’s Supreme Court news was the 4-3 decision to uphold affirmative action in university admissions processes. The decision proved that diversity is a value worth preserving on college campuses and is a win for all Americans. But the immigration decision that immediately followed it proved the fight to preserve and strengthen diversity in the United States will continue.
While the Supreme Court struggles to function and millions of families live in fear of deportation, a highly qualified and respected nominee awaits action from Senate Republicans. Tomorrow marks the 100th day since Chief Judge Merrick Garland was nominated to fill the vacancy and today’s failure to resolve the United States v. Texas case proves just how much we need the vacancy filled. It’s time for Senate Republicans to stop playing political games with our democracy and give him a hearing and a vote.
BOTTOM LINE: Today, a short-handed Supreme Court failed to address one of the most consequential immigration cases in decades, forcing millions of immigrants to continue living in fear of separation. Millions of families were forced into limbo by a group of politically-motivated Republican lawmakers seeking to block President Obama’s immigration actions and they remain in limbo thanks, in part, to another group of politically-motivated Republican lawmakers seeking to obstruct the Supreme Court process.
In Evenwel v. Abbott, the Supreme Court considered whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to draw state legislative districts that contain a substantially equal number of voters.
Evenwel involved a constitutional challenge to the Texas legislature’s 2013 redistricting plan, which drew 31 state senate districts on substantially equal population based on the 2010 census. In 2014, Sue Evenwel filed this lawsuit, claiming that the redistricting plan violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the districts did not contain a substantially equal number of voters. A three-judge district court—which was convened because Evenwel challenged the constitutionality of a state legislature’s redistricting plan—dismissed the case, noting that Evenwel is “relying upon a theory never before accepted by the Supreme Court or any circuit court.” Evenwel filed a statement of jurisdiction with the Supreme Court, and on May 26, 2015, the Court noted probable jurisdiction.
On September 25, 2015, Constitutional Accountability Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the lower court’s ruling, explaining that Evenwel’s radical claim—that it is the population of eligible voters that must be equalized under the Fourteenth Amendment—cannot be squared with the Constitution’s text and history. Both at the Founding and after the Civil War, our Constitution’s Framers decreed that representation in the House of Representatives would be based on the total population, not the number of eligible voters or other less-encompassing metrics. CAC’s brief took a comprehensive look at the text and history of the Fourteenth Amendment and demonstrated that the Amendment affirmed the Constitution’s promise of equal representation for all. The argument that voter equality must be the overriding constitutional concern was rejected again and again, with the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment declaring that “the whole population is represented; that although all do not vote, yet all are heard. That is the idea of the Constitution.” As our brief demonstrated, Evenwel’s argument is inconsistent with the total population standard reflected in the Constitution’s text and history and with the Supreme Court’s landmark one-person, one-vote cases, which have required states to draw districts on the basis of population and have consistently used total population as the benchmark for evaluating challenges to state redistricting.
The Supreme Court heard oral argument on December 8, 2015. On April 4, 2016, the Court held – by an 8-0 vote – that a state may draw its legislative districts based on total population. Drawing heavily on constitutional history discussed in our brief, as well as Court precedent and practice, Justice Ginsburg’s opinion for the Court, joined by five other Justices, held that use of a total-population baseline serves the principle of representational equality. Indeed, although the Court didn’t reach the question of whether states may draw districts based on voter-eligible population, the Court’s opinion made clear that total population – as the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment recognized – is “the theory of the Constitution” when it comes to representation.
1788 – Virginia ratified the U.S. Constitution and became the 10th state of the United States.
1868 – The U.S. Congress enacted legislation granting an eight-hour day to workers employed by the Federal government.
1868 – Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina were readmitted to the Union
1910 – The U.S. Congress authorized the use of postal savings stamps.
1917 – The first American fighting troops landed in France.
1920 – The Greeks took 8,000 Turkish prisoners in Smyrna.
1962 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the use of unofficial non-denominational prayer in public schools was unconstitutional.
1964 – U.S. President Lyndon Johnson ordered 200 naval personnel to Mississippi to assist in finding three missing civil rights workers.
1968 – Bobby Bonds (San Francisco Giants) hit a grand-slam home run in his first game with the Giants. He was the first player to debut with a grand-slam.
1970 – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission handed down a ruling (35 FR 7732), making it illegal for radio stations to put telephone calls on the air without the permission of the person being called.
1981 – The U.S. Supreme Court decided that male-only draft registration was constitutional.
1986 – The U.S. Congress approved $100 million in aid to the Contras fighting in Nicaragua.
1990 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of an individual, whose wishes are clearly made, to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. “The right to die” decision was made in the Curzan vs. Missouri case.
1997 – U.S. air pollution standards were significantly tightened by U.S. President Clinton.
1998 – The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the line-item veto thereby striking down presidential power to cancel specific items in tax and spending legislation.
1998 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that those infected with HIV are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act.