U.S. Supreme Court Immigration Ruling

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The United States Supreme Court let stand today a lower court ruling that blocks a program by President Obama that would have let some 4 million parents of illegal immigrants stay in the country.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," a deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court leaves the president's deferred deportation program on hold.

Ted Simons: Also tonight, hear about a new way to measure job creation in Arizona.

Ted Simons: And we'll learn about efforts to make cheaper solar panels. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

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Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. A deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court today failed to reach a decision on President Obama's plan to allow close to 4 million parents of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally. The high court's non-decision means that a lower court's ruling to block the program stands. Reaction to the Supreme Court's deadlocked vote included protests in downtown Phoenix, with as many as 60 demonstrators blocking Central Avenue near McDowell outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Building.

Noemi Romero: We just saw that we were literally betrayed today. They don't really care about us people, immigrant people, they don't care about us, they don't care what we think, apparently.

Eduardo Sainz: We understand that in order to win the change that we need, we need to hold elected officials accountable and vote for elected officials that align with our values.

Ted Simons: Four people were arrested during the protest, which lasted for more than an hour. Joining us now to discuss today's short-handed Supreme Court ruling is Kyle Hallstrom from the Hallstrom Law Firm. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us. So what exactly was before the court?

Kyle Hallstrom: Two issues, both executive orders issued by President Obama in late 2014. The first was an expansion of an existing program called DACA to allow children who had been brought to the United States as undocumented immigrants by their parents, it allowed them to remain in the United States, have any deportation of them deferred and seek education or apply for the ability to work. Now, DACA remains in place but President Obama had proposed an expansion to DACA, which is often referred to as DACA Plus and DAPA, which would have given similar protections to parents who were undocumented immigrants themselves but who had American citizen children.

Ted Simons: The court, did they look at the policy of the Obama plan or did they look at the fact that he decreed the executive order to begin with?

Kyle Hallstrom: The Supreme Court, we don't know quite what they looked at because their decision was one sentence long and that sentence said we can't reach a decision so the lower court stands. Tie goes to the runner.

Ted Simons: Not much guidance there.

Kyle Hallstrom: None at all. And so what we are left with is something of a mishmash. The fifth circuit went into some depth in determining that President Obama had exceeded his authority in issuing these executive orders. Whether that has national precedence remains quite an open question. It's certainly possible to believe that we would have had a different outcome before different judges and part of the purpose of the Supreme Court is to give us that final word and they were unable to do that today.

Ted Simons: Was it unusual for a one sentence verdict? Obviously, they didn't come to a decision, they were dead locked but certainly we don't know who voted for what.

Kyle Hallstrom: There's not much more to say at this point. We lack a justice on the Supreme Court. It's designed to function with nine. There's certainly ties, even when the court is fully staffed, there can be ties due to recusals, one justice being completely different opinion, there are different ways for this to come forward but it's been more common this term with the death of justice Scalia and the lack of an appointment to replace him as the cases have gone forward.

Ted Simons: It goes back to the lower court ruling that stands as far as blocking the parents, the DAPA. Now is the case over? Because if it goes back to the lower court ruling, can't it go back down there and everyone can just go to trial court, start the whole process all over again? This thing is not really dead or is it?

Kyle Hallstrom: It's not but it's dead in the same way a zombie is dead. It's going to lurch forward but the court system grinds slow but extremely fine and it is very slow. And so by the time this actually goes through briefing and discovery and finds its way to a final resolution as it typically would in this case we're going to have a new president, we may have an entirely refashioned Congress, and President Obama's views on immigration are going to be functionally dead. It will be the next president in conjunction with the next Congress who decides where we go from here.

Ted Simons: You could have a next Congress that could take his ideas, turn it into law or you could have another president who could put the ninth justice on there who would say don't even bother bringing this thing back up here because I'm going to vote no.

Kyle Hallstrom: That's precisely the case.

Ted Simons: Which says this election really has major judicial consequences?

Kyle Hallstrom: Oh, yes. We already knew this election, coming up was going to be very impactful on immigration. Even more so now and it just highlights the notion that both parties have been struggling for years and years at this point to come up with an immigration policy reform. You won't find a politician who doesn't disagree that we need a reform. The parties are so dead locked that executive action seems to have been the only way we could move forward at this point. President Obama was successful with that with the original DACA plan. He's been curtailed going forward with the DACA Plus and DAPA so it remains to be seen.

Ted Simons: Does it make sense that DACA past muster but DACA Plus and DAPA did not or does it always make sense if you have eight justices?

Kyle Hallstrom: Well, what I can say is that DACA itself was not up for review. All that was challenged was DACA Plus and DAPA. It certainly is possible for a new case potentially to be brought and I haven't looked at the specific legalities of bringing a new case but as a practical matter again these were executive orders and the next executive to come in could reaffirm them, could choose to put in new orders that better comply with the law as it appears to be going forward with the fifth circuit ruling or it could repeal it altogether.

Ted Simons: The next president is going to come in and when it comes to executive orders look at this case and say you're not helping me a bit, Supreme Court. You're not giving me any kind of information here.

Kyle Hallstrom: And I think the Supreme Court would say back we can't, we weren't able to make a decision and so when we can't make a decision, when we can't speak with authority, it's best to just remain silent.

Ted Simons: Go ahead, please.

Kyle Hallstrom: The bigger problem that the executive will potentially have going forward is we now have a new precedent that suggests, at least within the fifth circuit of some limitations on the ability to use executive orders to go through this and going through Congress has been a problem for the president, at least President Obama and I believe also for president George W. bush, going through Congress is difficult and perhaps prohibitive in obtaining comprehensive immigration reform. If we can't go through Congress and the ability to work through executive action is curtailed, what can we do at this point?

Ted Simons: And what do undocumented immigrants do at this point? Those who have children that were born in America, those affected by these two executive orders that are now blocked and as you say zombies for lack of a better term. What do they do? What changes for them?

Kyle Hallstrom: In some sense not much changes. They don't have any permanent status going forward nor in most cases a realistic path to a permanent status. That doesn't really change. What changes is whether or not they had the hope that they could apply to have their deportation deferred, whether they could apply to work and participate in the American economy. For those people, they would say they lack stability, they lack an ability to say that they are going to be able to work to better themselves and their families going forward. To opponents of DACA Plus and opponents of DAPA, they would say this is a victory for the enforcement of our immigration policies.

Ted Simons: And separation of powers.

Ted Simons: Last question. Were you surprised by today's non-decision?

Kyle Hallstrom: Not terribly. It broke along what is broadly agreed to be the ideological lines. Kennedy is traditionally viewed as a swing vote but tends to vote conservative on a lot of issues. Things would be very different if Judge Scalia would be with us, we would have the same results but an opinion to guide us. As we currently stand, there have been more and more of these ties this term and that doesn't look to resolve itself until we have a new president in place and our Supreme Court in some instances is paralyzed and that just can't work going forward.

Ted Simons: It sounds rudderless. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Kyle Hallstrom: Thanks for having me.

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Kyle Hallstrom from Hallstrom Law Firm

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