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Will Justice Scalia's Death Impact Immigration Reform?

Justice Antonin Scalia, widely considered to be the most conservative judge on the Supreme Court, passed away on February 14 at the age of 79. While Congressional republicans will attempt to block an appointment, President Obama is likely to nominate a liberal justice to replace Scalia – which could have big implications in the case of United States v. Texas.

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Executive Actions On Immigration

In November 2014, President Obama announced a policy called the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, referred to as DAPA. Through this policy, Obama is seeking to prevent the deportation of more than 3.5 million undocumented immigrants by granting them a deferred action status. Essentially, this would allow these individuals to work and live legally in the United States without fear of deportation. Through this policy, Obama plans to focus on deporting the worst offenders, including violent criminals, rather than deporting otherwise law-abiding families.

State Opposition

Shortly after the announcement of DAPA, a number of states objected to what they viewed as a violation of Obama’s executive authority. While the president does have authority to establish deportation priority policies, these states argued that Obama did not have the authority to grant the deferred status. 26 states filed suit against the federal government, and the case of United States v. Texas is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

Changes In The Court

The passing of Justice Scalia shifts the balance of SCOTUS, as the Court has lost its most outspoken opponent of expanded federal authority. While there are a number of potential outcomes to this case, the following are most likely:

  • A Justice is seated prior to the case being heard, which would most likely result in a ruling favorable to President Obama.
  • The case is heard prior to a new appointment, which would likely result in a 4-4 ruling. This would uphold the lower court’s decision to block DAPA.
  • The case is pushed until next term, which means the outcome of the upcoming presidential election would likely be a major factor in the outcome of the case.

The Future of Immigration Reform

Based on the information currently available, it seems likely that the states’ challenge of DAPA will be successful. At this point, however, the case is focused on the limits of presidential authority, rather than the interests of immigrants. Although DAPA may be successfully blocked, there is no denying the need for immigration reform in a variety of areas.

Are you dealing with an immigration matter in Louisiana or Texas? Call our Lake Charles immigration attorneys today at (337) 214-0670 for the dedicated, highly effective counsel you need.