Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
Equity & Diversity

Supreme Court Weighs Deportation Dispute

By Mark Walsh — April 26, 2016 4 min read
Supporters of an Obama administration program seeking to give protection from deportation to unauthorized immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in a challenge to the program.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Supreme Court appears divided over President Barack Obama’s program offering work permits and relief from deportation to some 4 million unauthorized immigrant parents of children who are U.S. citizens.

The question of whether Texas and 25 other states have legal “standing” to challenge the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program dominated the 90 minutes of intense arguments in United States v. Texas (Case No 15-674) April 18.

The DAPA program and an expansion of an earlier program aimed at young people hold an array of implications for the nation’s schools, parents, and students.

Although the arguments did not get into some of the particulars of school-related issues raised in some of the briefs, the human dimension of the immigration debate did not go unmentioned.

“There is a pressing humanitarian concern in avoiding the breakup of families that contain U.S. citizen children,” said U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. in defending the administration’s program.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that some 11 million total unauthorized immigrants are “here in the shadows” and are part of the economy, like it or not.

She suggested the administration had the executive authority to create the DAPA program because of congressional inaction on immigration reform.

“Here, we have a Congress that’s decided—some members of the Congress have decided they don’t like [immigration legislation]—and so Congress has remained silent,” Sotomayor said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that Congress was not providing the executive branch all the resources it would take to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“Inevitably, priorities have to be set,” she said.

Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan also expressed support for the administration’s position.

Costs of Driver’s Licenses, Schools

Meanwhile, three justices of the court’s more conservative bloc expressed varying degrees of sympathy for the states’ position, while conservative Justice Clarence Thomas remained silent but is expected to lean toward the states, as well.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. expressed support for a lower court’s ruling that at least Texas, among the plaintiffs, had legal standing to challenge the program because it would have to provide driver’s licenses to the DAPA recipients.

In blocking the Obama administration’s program, lower courts held that Texas had standing because it would incur additional costs for issuing driver’s licenses if some 500,000 unauthorized immigrant parents received notice from the federal government under the DAPA program that they were not a priority for deportation.

In its brief, Texas cites not only increased costs it would face to issue driver’s licenses to those who gained relief under the DAPA program, but additional education costs of some $58 million per year “stemming from illegal immigration,” presumably from an increase in families with a mix of undocumented members and U.S. citizen children.

“DAPA is an unprecedented assertion of executive power,” Texas Solicitor General Scott A. Keller told the justices.

Verrilli, who was defending the program, faced some sharp questioning from Alito.

Texas doesn’t “want to give driver’s licenses to the beneficiaries of DAPA,” Alito told Verrilli. “And unless you can tell us that there is some way that they could achieve that, then I don’t see how there is not injury in fact.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. suggested that Texas and other states should be able to challenge the program based on increased costs. “Isn’t losing money the classic case for standing?” Roberts said.

On the merits, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy expressed some support for the states. He said that when it came to an immigration policy affecting some 4 million people, “what we’re doing is defining the limits of discretion. And it seems to me that that is a legislative, not an executive act.”

Because lower courts approved an injunction blocking the initiative, the administration must win five votes on the eight-member court (with the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat still vacant) to revive the program.

Considerable discussion took place last week on what the DAPA program would actually do, given that it builds on other federal immigration laws and regulations that all sides agree already give the executive branch wide discretion on deferring deportation of various classes of noncitizens.

DAPA “does not confer any immigration status,” Verrilli said.

Roberts and Alito pointed to what they viewed as inconsistent language in the administration’s defense of the program that DAPA recipients may “work lawfully” but not be considered to be here legally.

“I’m just talking about the English language,” Alito said.

Verrilli suggested there were fine lines between the meanings of various words and phrases in immigration law, especially the idea of “lawful presence.”

A decision in the case is expected by late June.

A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 2016 edition of Education Week as High Court Weighs Deportation Dispute

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Teachers Say They Have Little Influence in Curriculum Debates
New survey paints a complicated picture of where teachers stand in debates over instruction of topics of race and gender.
4 min read
Conservative groups and LGBTQ+ rights supporters protest outside the Glendale Unified School District offices in Glendale, Calif., on June 6, 2023. Several hundred people gathered in the parking lot of the district headquarters, split between those who support or oppose teaching about exposing youngsters to LGBTQ+ issues in schools.
Conservative groups and LGBTQ+ rights supporters protest outside the Glendale Unified school district offices in Glendale, Calif., on June 6, 2023.
Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP
Equity & Diversity Spotlight Spotlight on Inclusion & Equity
This Spotlight will help you examine disparities in districts’ top positions, the difference between equity and equality, and more.
Equity & Diversity The Battle to Drop Native American Mascots Goes On, as Some Communities Reinstate Them
The larger trend to remove Native American mascots and logos comes from a national racial reckoning after the death of George Floyd in 2020.
6 min read
A woman plays a drum during a "No Honor in Racism Rally" in front of TCF Bank Stadium before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs, Oct. 18, 2015, in Minneapolis. The battle to change the use of Native Americans in logos, team names and fan-driven behavior has often been in the bright spotlight due to major sports teams. Protests are being planned at the Super Bowl once more in response to the Kansas City Chiefs.
A woman plays a drum during a "No Honor in Racism Rally" in front of TCF Bank Stadium before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs, Oct. 18, 2015, in Minneapolis. The battle to change the use of Native Americans in logos, team names and fan-driven behavior has often been in the bright spotlight due to major sports teams. Protests are being planned at the Super Bowl once more in response to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Alex Brandon/AP
Equity & Diversity Opinion You Should Be Teaching Black Historical Contention
How to responsibly teach this critical component of Black history instruction —and why you should.
Brittany L. Jones
4 min read
A student raises their hand to ask a question before a group of assorted historical figures.
Camilla Sucre for Education Week