Sina-cism: The real line on immigration, and how Obama crossed it

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On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a one-line ruling that blocks President Obama’s effort to extend key benefits of citizenship to an estimated 5 million illegal aliens [undocumented immigrants].

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

In United States v. Texas, an appeal of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the high court stated: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

So few words, yet they unleashed a torrent of vitriol upon the Court’s conservative members, the Republican-controlled House, and Americans who still believe in the rule of law.

The New York Times editorial board called it a “maddening 4-to-4 non-decision,” said that up to 5 million people “who might have been spared deportation remain stranded, vulnerable to arrest and unable to work legally,” and suggested that the case would never have reached the Supreme Court had it not been for “Republican spite.”

The Supreme Court laid out a very brief, but potentially far-reaching decision last week.

Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court laid out a very brief, but potentially far-reaching decision last week.

Locally, there was disappointment too, chiefly among those here illegally, liberal college professors, and Democratic members of Congress.

More Sina-cism from Chris Sinacola:

In Dudley, Muslims need not apply

A computer science ‘gap’ that doesn’t exist

Enter the trigger-man, guns blazing

Here are the facts:

In November 2014, Obama – frustrated by Congress’ lack of action on immigration – issued orders to create a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

DAPA would have permitted certain undocumented immigrants – those living in the United States since 2010, having family here legally, and not convicted of felonies or posing a threat to national security – to be protected from deportation and receive three-year, renewable work permits.

A month later, Texas and 25 other states sued to block Obama’s actions, arguing they would exacerbate a situation that had already forced them to spend millions of dollars on services because the U.S. government had failed to enforce existing immigration law.

In February 2015, Judge Andrew Hanen of the District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted a preliminary injunction barring Obama’s orders.

The administration appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans, which first denied the motion for a stay of the injunction, and later upheld the injunction.

The appeals court ruled that Obama’s DAPA and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) actions violated the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946, and that the law “flatly does not permit” the actions Obama took.

How “Republican spite” enters this beats me. It was the administration itself that appealed the case to the high court, and had it not been for the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a Republican nominee, the administration would likely have lost the case, 5-4.

What’s next? Almost certainly not the deportation of 5 million undocumented immigrants.

After all, DAPA aimed to assist people who have been living here since 2010, have family ties, pose no threat to national security, and are not “an enforcement priority for removal.” In other words, people so far off the government’s radar that they haven’t been noticed for at least six years, many for much longer, aren’t likely to be deported.

Yes, they could be deported. They’re just not likely to be, regardless of who wins the White House, who is confirmed to the Supreme Court, or which party controls Congress.

That’s because massive deportations of undocumented immigrants, most of whom are working and not committing crimes (beyond being here illegally), is financially foolish and politically impossible.

At the same time, undocumented immigrants have no right to legally work here, and no president has the power to simply call such a right into existence. The Supreme Court merely upheld the law. That four members of the Court misinterpreted the law is a measure of how low standards have fallen for becoming a member of that once-august body.

Our immigration debate is likely to remain as fierce as ever for a long time to come, and meaningful resolution can only come when Congress finds its way to a reform law that can gain strong bipartisan support and public favor.

I don’t know whether that will ever happen, but rhetoric such as this from The New York Times won’t help: “Amid the tears and hugs was a firm resolve to keep on fighting, the only option in the face of injustice.”


Tell that to the millions of immigrants who have waited years to legally come to these United States, and now live among us – in Worcester and a thousand places like it – openly and proudly. Let us hear them more than we do those attempting an end-run around the rules – aided and abetted by an administration whose respect for the law extends only as far as its ideology allows.

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