With the Supreme Court’s significant announcement earlier this week to take up the challenge to President Obama’s executive actions that, if upheld by the Court, could protect millions of immigrants from deportation and keep families together, we’re reminded yet again of the critically important role that the nine justices on the Supreme Court have in deciding the future of our families and communities.
Families across the United States are counting on the Court to follow the law, not play politics, by upholding the President’s actions. Parents should not have to live in fear of being deported and separated from their children. Children should not have to worry when they come home from school whether their father or big sister will still be there. The pain and suffering of millions of immigrants in the United States could be alleviated if the Court applies the law correctly and upholds DACA+ and DAPA, thus clearing the way for so many families to live in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
The only reason that the Supreme Court has the power to make this decision is that Republican politicians challenged the actions. It’s Republican governors and attorneys general leading the politically-calculated, anti-immigrant lawsuit to cater to their far-right base by challenging DACA+ and DAPA.
And there’s a reason GOP politicians turned to the courts: Republicans have spent decades doing everything in their power to fill our judiciary with far-right judges whose decisions help the party’s extreme ideological agenda. Before this case reached the Supreme Court, the Republican coalition took their case to an anti-immigrant judge who consistently misapplies the law, Judge Andrew Hanen of the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas. As just one example, the Republican-appointed judge once called it a “dangerous course of action” for the Department of Homeland Security to reunite an undocumented daughter and mother without bringing criminal charges against the mother.
So it’s no surprise that Judge Hanen misapplied the law and blocked DACA+ and DAPA. His decision was then appealed to the 5th Circuit Court, but in a 2-1 decision, they upheld his ruling. It was two Republican-appointed judges in the majority and a Democratic-appointed judge in the minority.
The dissent of the Democratic-appointed judge, Judge Carolyn King, explained that she viewed the decision as fundamentally wrong. She believes that her fellow justices misapplied the law, writing emphatically, “I have a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made.”
Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to correct the previous decisions by applying the law justly and upholding DACA+ and DAPA. I hope that’s what they’ll do, but regardless of the outcome, the situation we face should be an important wake-up call about the power that Presidents, by picking Supreme Court justices, can hold over our community for decades. After all, a President’s term is only four years, but a Supreme Court justice serves for life.
In the past few years we’ve seen the power right-wing justices have to misapply the law — hurting our communities and stamping down on our civil rights in the process — and we’ve seen that the court’s GOP appointed justices are often willing to do just that. Just a few years ago, the Court’s right-wing bloc struck down core provisions of the Voting Rights Act, limiting voting rights in a way that particularly harms people of color with the simple (and false) declaration that they were no longer necessary. And they’ve made it vastly easier for corporations to overpower the voices of ordinary people in elections. In another recent decision where the Court upheld long-standing rules to prohibit housing discrimination, the Court came within one vote of overturning decades of precedent protecting people of color.
The upcoming decision on DACA+ and DAPA won’t be the last case with the potential to cause devastating harm in our community. And the outcome of those cases will likely be decided in the voting booth this November. The average Supreme Court justice retires when he or she is 78 years old, and during the next President’s first term, four Supreme Court justices will be over 80 years old, making it very likely the next President will get to appoint multiple Supreme Court justices. As voters, we have the chance to decide whether we want to pull the Court back from its rightward march, or if we’ll let it turn into a far-right, anti-Latino branch of government for a generation.
The Supreme Court — and the future of the Latino community — is at stake in 2016.
We’ve seen what damage Republican presidents have been able to create through appointing partisan judges and Supreme Court justices — we can’t let that happen this year.