The DAPA Decision: What it Means for Immigrants


This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4-4 split decision in United States v. Texas, the case that challenged President Obama’s program that would have provided work authorization to millions of undocumented people with children who are U.S. citizens, known as DAPA (“Deferred Action for Parental Accountability”), and that would have expanded DACA (“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) to more people. 

What this means is that the decision from the lower appellate court, which effectively blocked the implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA, stays in place for now while the final litigation on the program continues in a Texas Federal Court.  We will likely not see a resolution to this case until after the election.

As was discussed by the President in his remarks following the ruling today, the decision by the Court today does not affect the enforcement priorities that are already in effect concerning who will be prioritized for deportation by Immigration authorities.  The enforcement priorities, set out in a November of 2014 memo, clarify that people who have been in the United States since before January of 2014 and who do not have significant criminal histories will not be prioritized for removal, even where they have a prior order of deportation or have been deported.

Under the enforcement priorities, people who have a criminal history[1] or who entered the U.S. AFTER January 1, 2014 are supposed to be prioritized for deportation.  Additionally, some people who have “abused” the visa process will also be considered priorities.  Anyone not considered a priority under this memo, or whom the government does not have an important federal interest in removing, should not be processed for removal.  This policy remains unchanged by today’s ruling.

The practical effect of today’s ruling by the Court is this: everything will stay the same as it has been for the last year and a half.   The sadness in today’s ruling is that, for now, millions of hardworking, law-abiding people, some who have been here for decades, will continue to live their lives in the shadows.

But this is not the end of this fight!  With the elections coming up in November, clear lines on the issue of immigration have been drawn between the presumptive nominees for President.  Additionally, if Comprehensive Immigration Reform is ever going to happen, it is going to have to be passed by members of Congress, and signed by the President. That is why now, more than ever, it is important for anyone who is a U.S. Citizen[2] and who cares about reforming our broken immigration system to register and vote in this election. 

[1] Anyone with a felony conviction is considered to be an enforcement priority, or with a conviction for a significant misdemeanor, such as driving while intoxicated, domestic violence, unlawful possession of a firearm, drug distribution, or where you went to jail for at least 90 days.  Additionally, anyone who participated with an organized gang is considered a priority for removal regardless of whether a conviction actually occurred.

[2] If you are not a U.S. citizen, you cannot vote or register to vote.  Voting or registering to vote when you are not a U.S. citizen can have devastating effects on your immigration status.  However, non-citizens can help encourage U.S. citizens to vote to elect pro-immigrant candidates by volunteering with campaigns locally.