Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling (or lack thereof, really) essentially striking down Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) wasn't exactly a surprise, but for those directly affected, life might be about to get a lot tougher, what with the threat of deportation and all.
According to the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the new rules, implemented via executive order in 2014, could have helped 5.2 million parents and young immigrants, nearly 230,000 of them in Florida.
President Obama and groups in Florida and across the country are railing against the decision as well as the obvious political motives that got us here, which to many observers are comically flagrant.
Implications of the Court's deadlock on DAPA/DACA are many, say immigration advocates (and fans of integrity in general). Some of those implications are tragic, but advocates see a silver lining.
1) Since the deadlock essentially upholds a lower court's decision, families could be ripped apart.
That includes many who are trying to go the legal route.
"Keep in mind that millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking effort to become citizens," Obama said in a press conference after the vote. "And we don't like the notion that anyone could get a free pass to American citizenship. But here's the thing: millions of people who have come forward and worked to get right with the law under this policy, they've been living here for years, too, and sometimes even decades. So leaving the broken system the way it is, that's not a solution.”
Especially, advocates say, when mass deportations could potentially tear families apart, which could ultimately cost taxpayers.
“This decision not only affects millions of immigrant parents and young undocumented Americans who have been waiting for this opportunity for decades, but all of us," said Monica Russo, president of SEIU Florida, a service workers' labor union. "The continuation of unnecessary detentions and deportations is separating U.S. citizen children from their parents and is costing us millions in foster care and bills from private detention centers."
2) The deadlock, Obama said, is “a very clear reminder of why it's so important for the Supreme Court to have a full bench.”
Despite his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland months ago in the wake of the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Republicans have refused to meet with the prospective justice — even though his qualifications and proven history as a moderate should make him an obvious choice.
"They are allowing partisan politics to jeopardize something as fundamental as the impartiality and integrity of our justice system," he said. "And America should not let it stand.”
Without a ninth justice, the 4-4 split on the bench makes for quite a few deadlocks. Issues aren't exactly being resolved once and for all, which is why the Supreme Court exists.
Republicans say they want to wait until after the November election to do anything in the hope their guy will nominate another ultraconservative. But stalling for this long on a Supreme Court justice confirmation is unprecedented and, given how the presumptive GOP nominee has been doing in the polls, might not work out so well for them.
"This all about politics for our opponents, but for us, it’s personal. We know that justice will prevail," said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, a DC-based PAC that's been vocal on the Senate's refusal to consider Garland.
3) In an election year, Republicans apparently think the stakes are too high to actually, you know, do their job — which may ultimately benefit Democrats. May.
Inciting fear and hatred of immigrants is far from new, and, judging by the incessant repetition of "build that wall!" at Trump's rallies, will likely benefit him. Trump, of course, lauded Wednesday's decision, which he called the "Executive Amnesty Ruling" in a written statement, calling DAPA "one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a President" and claiming its work permit provisions would have taken away American jobs.
Not that his reaction wasn't expected.
“Republicans will no doubt cheer this decision because like Donald Trump they hate immigrants. That much is abundantly clear after years of vitriolic anti-immigration rhetoric on the campaign trail and their total refusal to act on commonsense immigration reform," Woodhouse, of Americans United for Change, said. "But while they are dousing themselves in champagne they should know this: they’re on the wrong side of this issue, and they are screwed politically."
Obama said he recognizes that use of politically charged rhetoric can appeal to voters wary of people from foreign countries.
“This is an election year, and in election years politicians use the immigration issue to scare people, with words like 'amnesty' in hopes that it will whip up votes."
But, with that in mind, Democrats say they hope maintaining tolerance and compassion as part of their platform will help sway voters.
"Now we've got a choice about who we want to be as a country, how we want to teach our kids and how we want to be represented in Congress and in the White House," Obama said.
“The Supreme Court wasn't definitive one way or another on this," he said. "The problem is, they don't have a ninth justice.”
In the wake of the ruling, immigration advocates in Florida said they are undeterred in their fight, and on Thursday organized rallies across the state to draw attention to their cause.
“Today’s ruling is a setback for immigrant families and the movement that stands behind them, but this battle is far from over.” said Maria Rodriguez, executive director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We will fight back against anti-immigrant politicians at local, state and federal levels by mobilizing the over 1.2 million eligible permanent residents in Florida to become U.S. citizens and encourage them to vote in support of the 11 million immigrants waiting for a comprehensive and permanent solution.”
"Come August and November, we will hold the Republican politicians who brought this meritless lawsuit accountable at the polls,” said Daniel Barajas, executive director for the Young American Dreamers. “We will remember the lengths these politicians went to tear our families apart and degrade our communities. We will continue to fight, stronger than ever, and work to elect pro-immigrant leaders at the local, state, and federal levels in 2016.”