Heartbreaking, was how President Obama described the Supreme Court decision that keeps his immigration executive orders blocked. It is indeed a heartbreaking outcome but politically it was the best possible outcome for undocumented immigrants and supporters of immigration reform.
Politics is a long, slow, iterative game. Last week’s decision keeping in place an injunction on deferred deportation action for childhood arrivals and for the parents of citizen children allowed immigration reform to dodge a potentially lethal bullet and to see a more permanent solution develop.
On the surface it seems that the lifting of the injunction would have been the best outcome. This would have been the worst.
Donald Trump has built his successful candidacy on the back of immigration. The implementation of DACA and DAPA would have been an adrenaline shot to the arms of those who oppose immigration. Trump’s supporters have already proven to be motivated and moved by the issue of immigration.
On the flip side, the implementation of DACA and DAPA may have lessened the urgency for Latinos to mobilize. Latinos do not have a strong tradition of voting. However we know from the case of California that when Latinos feel personally threatened they will engage politically. The lifting of the injunction might have just seen Latinos decrease their participation and Trump supporters increase theirs leading to a sure death of any immigration reform with a Trump presidency.
The second best/ worst outcome would have been for the Supreme Court to have ruled that the President’s executive orders were unconstitutional. This would have meant that future president’s, say for example Hillary Clinton, would not have that legal recourse. President’s are able to exercise their executive authority and for the last 50 years they have used their discretionary powers to allow immigrants to lawfully remain in the United States.
The loss of the use of immigration executive action would have left no backup plan in the absence of congressional action.
The negative implications of the two outcomes that didn’t materialize highlight why the 4-4 deadlocked decision was the best. There is no denying that it is heartbreaking in the short-term but in the long-term it offers the best probability of reaching permanent immigration reform.
Those opposed to immigration reform and Trump supporters more specifically aren’t going to get amped up by the stalemate. If anything they see it as a win. However, the true silver lining of the decision is that it will mobilize the Latino community. The heartbreak can be harnessed and used to get Latinos to the polls to support the immigration reform friendly candidate—Clinton.
A Hillary Clinton presidency is the key to immigration reform, whether long-term or short-term. Clinton has pledged to work for comprehensive reform through Congress. The optimist in me says there’s a chance she can do it. The pessimist in me says it may not happen. But what is certain is that Clinton would appoint a Supreme Court Justice sympathetic to immigration reform and by extension the implementation of DACA and DAPA.
The key to immigration reform is getting Latino voters to make their voice heard at the polls so they can ensure the President, Congress, and by extension the Supreme Court keeps our country the land of immigrants that it has always been.