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What does the Supreme Court's immigration ruling mean?

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington,

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2016. Photo Credit: AP

A short-handed and deeply divided Supreme Court deadlocked Thursday on President Barack Obama's immigration plan to help millions living in the U.S. illegally, effectively killing the plan for the rest of his presidency and raising the stakes even further for the November elections.

To better understand the ruling and its implications, here are six questions and answers on the topic: 

What does the ruling mean?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s split decision in United States v. Texas blocks President Barack Obama’s executive actions that would have given certain immigrants living here illegally protection from deportation and the benefits of obtaining work permits from the federal government under the DACA and DAPA programs.

How many people are affected?

Up to 3.8 million young immigrants and immigrant parents living in the United States illegally could have qualified for protection and benefits under the programs, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

What are DACA and DAPA?

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and DAPA for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. Obama announced both executive actions in November 2014. The contested DACA program was an expansion of an existing initiative and would have protected immigrants who came illegally before they turned 16 and were in the country by January 2010; DAPA would have shielded immigrant parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents in the country by that date.

Do any of Obama’s executive actions on deportation deferrals remain in force?

Yes. The existing DACA program, which Obama put in place by executive action in June 2012, remains in effect for younger immigrants known as “Dreamers.” To qualify, they must have been brought to the United States illegally or have overstayed visas when they were under 16. They also must have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, and have been under 31 by June 15, 2012.

How does the government currently decide whom to deport?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the Obama administration’s priorities, focuses on detaining and removing immigrants considered “threats to national security, public safety and border security,” according to a November 2014 memorandum from Jeh Johnson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

What is the future of Obama’s executive actions on immigration?

There appears to be consensus among proponents and opponents on immigration that the expanded DACA and DAPA initiatives are blocked at least for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the case, meaning the matter reverts to the lower courts and the programs will not be implemented, legal experts said. The case could again go before the Supreme Court if a subsequent ruling is appealed.


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