“Heartbreaking.” “Discouraging.” This is how immigration-reform advocates have described the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision—or lackthereof—on the constitutionality of President Obama’s deportation-relief program.
“Across the country, business owners, growers, hotel builders, they were really looking forward to having a stable and legal workforce,” says Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. “Now we’re back to square two.”
Expanding the program to a larger group of undocumented youth, plus many of their parents, could have added up to five million people to the U.S. workforce. Instead, the Supreme Court’s deadlock in Texas v. United States means that a lower court’s decision to halt the program—and the possibility of legal job opportunities for many undocumented workers—still stands.
Since the ruling, little has been said about the 800,000-plus undocumented youth currently allowed to work under the original 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants work authorization and deportation protection to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. President Obama merely said the current injunction wouldn’t apply to those allowed to work under the 2012 program, since the injunction was aimed at the expansion of the program, which he announced in 2014. That expansion would have granted protection to a much larger group of immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids, plus their parents. Now, the future of the program is very much in limbo, depending on who becomes the next president and who that president subsequently nominates to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.