Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died this past week of seemingly natural causes. Appointed in 1986 by Ronald Reagan, Scalia voted true to his Catholic and Conservative roots until the end. He was a sure “no” on all cases regarding marriage rights for LGBTQ, immigrant rights, abortion-choice rights, and any other pro-person-rights case imaginable. His replacement, still unknown, will have a difficult time upholding the alarmingly racist standard of his backwards decision making.
When a member of the Supreme Court is unable to continue with their duties, all current cases must be halted until a replacement is appointed. This could easily be accomplished within President Obama’s term, but if it is not, the lower court’s decisions for each case will be upheld. For observers of many cases, this is a mere irritation, but for some, it is quite literally life-altering.
The Supreme Court was ruling on a case involving both DACA and DAPA, two policies which grant immigrants and immigrant parents of citizen children, respectively, certain rights not allowed to those without the recipient title, such as the ability to legally obtain work and a driver’s license. The current bill would allow for even more undocumented youth to be eligible for DACA benefits. It would also change the permit period from two years to three. These are necessary first steps to a migrant-friendly system, and ones that the historically anti-immigrant Scalia was sure to vote against.
Despite this, the expectation was that the case would be voted positively, authorizing the changes to DACA and DAPA. And, if Obama appoints a new justice in time, the same results are anticipated. However, as aforementioned, after a certain amount of time has passed, the Supreme Court’s cases will defer back to the decision of the lower courts. For this particular case, that result would be unfavorable, as the previous jury voted against the policy changes.
If this were to happen, DACA and DAPA would remain in their current forms. For young people and their parents eligible only with the changes implemented, this would be devastating. The delay caused by Scalia’s death forces many undocumented people to wait, unsure of whether they will become qualified or continue on fully undocumented. The application process is costly, and if given the chance to extend their permits a year, most would. Countless former beneficiaries who are waiting to reapply under the new guidelines are also left unsure of where they stand.
The amount of time waited before deferred ruling is the decision of the court members, so this is no time to be idle! Please, use any resources available to urge Obama to choose a new justice as quickly as possible!