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Four Myths About the Supreme Court Decision on Executive Action for Immigrants

After the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday in United States v. Texas, there were some confusing messages put out in the media about the result. You probably heard everything from claims that executive action is "dead" to warnings that roundups of undocumented immigrants are about to begin. Let’s clear up some of the myths about the decision.

Myth #1 Executive Action Is Dead-Executive Action on Immigration is not dead. This was probably the biggest falsehood perpetrated by the media during the day of the decision. In fact, it is not dead at all. The Supreme Court had a tie vote on whether to keep the injunction blocking executive action in place or to remove it. The case was not over when the decision was issued. The case will now go back to the Federal District Court in South Texas where there will be a full trial on the merits of the case.

Now, of course, the Federal judge in Texas has a history of antagonism to immigrants, so he is likely to rule against Executive Action again. Then that new decision will be appealed to the Federal Appeals Court in Louisiana. If we lose there, it may be back at the Supreme Court in 2017 or even 2018.

Myth #2 The Court Said the President Violated the Constitution By Issuing the Executive Order Helping Immigrants-The Supreme Court’s decision did not say whether the president’s action was Constitutional or not. In fact, the decision was only nine words long, essentially just saying that there was a tie vote. The Court did not determine whether the president followed the correct procedures or exceeded his powers in issuing the order. Nor did it say whether the State of Texas even had the right to bring the lawsuit challenging the executive action.

Anyone who tells you they know what the court meant by its decision is lying. It is impossible to read the decision and know what was behind each judge’s vote. Right now, all people are doing is guessing.

Myth #3 If the Case Goes to the Supreme Court Again Next Year, We Will Just Lose Again-When this case is back before the Supreme Court in 2017 or 2018 it will be heard by a very different Supreme Court. We know that four judges want to block Executive Action and four want to allow it to go ahead. That means that the next justice appointed to the Court will break the tie.

Because the Supreme Court had a tie vote, the decision it issued is not a precendent and does not have to be followed in the future by the Supreme Court.

Myth #4 There Is Nothing Anyone Can Do About the Supreme Court’s Decision-There is a lot that can be done. The final word on executive action will come during the next president’s first term. When President Obama leaves office in January, the new president will have to decide whether to try to continue working for Executive Action for Immigrants or not. If the president decides to drop it, it is over. But if the new president decides to move forward, the president will bring it before a Supreme Court to which he or she has appointed the tie-breaking judge.

The votes of U.S. citizens in the November presidential election will determine whether the new Supreme Court judge will vote for or against immigrants. Even if you can’t vote, you can remind your citizen friends and family that they have to vote in this year’s election. 

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