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What Does Justice Scalia’s Passing Mean for Immigration Reform?

Like many Americans, I believe that Justice Scalia’s passing was a major loss for American jurisprudence. Even though I did not hold his same beliefs, I respected his writings. I do not believe that his loss is a loss to conservatives only, but to America as a whole. At this time, I have heard or met three supreme court justices, which is amazing!

As you may know, the court is set to hear many important cases this term, one of which is the case regarding President Obama’s executive actions relating to immigration. I believe that the President, just like many jurists, has the authority to change immigration laws through executive actions. After all, the executive branch is entrusted with executing these laws. If the President did not have such authority, immigration judges around the country may not exercise many powers currently bestowed upon them by the Immigration and Naturalization Act. For example, these judges would be unable to administratively close a case, for example, when humanity requires such closure.

As you may recall, President Obama signed several executive actions relating to immigration on November 20, 2014, which were almost immediately challenged by 29 states, mostly states headed by republican governors. The lower courts, mainly in the Fifth Circuit, have issued decisions granting preliminary injunctions halting the President’s power to put these executive actions in action. The decisions deduce that the 29 states have shown that they face injury if the plans were executed.

The executive actions expand the DACA program established on June 15, 2012, and establish a new program that would halt the removal of parents of United States citizens (DAPA). The states have argued that these expansions would harm them, because they would have to issue driver’s licenses, for example, and would have to halt their enforcement of immigration laws, which honestly they do not have the power to enforce. As I argued before, these alleged injuries are not enough to halt these programs.

With Justice Scalia’s passing, the court would be split evenly between democratic and republican appointees. The court is set to hear the case in its present term, with a ruling expected in June. The first scenario would be an even split between the justices allowing the injunction to stand, and forcing the full litigation of the case. The Second scenario would be to overturn or uphold the injunction by a 5-3 vote, either allowing the programs to move forward or stop them in their tracks. The last scenario would be to issue a narrow ruling on standing, basically saying that these states either have standing or do not have standing to challenge these executive actions, and having the same results previously mentioned. However, if the justices rule that the states do not have standing, the case would be dismissed at the lower court level.

There is no doubt that Justice Scalia’s passing is monumental and could lead to enormous challenges to the court, especially when the Senate might not put the President’s nomination to a vote any time soon. No matter how you feel about Justice Scalia,   his untimely passing has thrown many challenges into the mix.  It is a very interesting times for constitutional scholars. Stay tuned for more updates in the near future. Unfortunately, in this political climate, we did not even have the time to mourn the passing of an American giant, which is very disappointing.

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