Supreme Court to hear DAPA immigration case in spring, while Justice Scalia’s death raises concern

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A heated debate continues to unfold across the country about how to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Meanwhile, critical and controversial cases hang in the balance until that debate is settled.

One key immigration affected deals with President Obama’s executive order on immigration. The DAPA case, or deferred action for parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents, is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court this spring. However, with Scalia’s death it is uncertain as to how the high court will handle this case.

Monday families and community leaders rallied at the Hispanic Center of West Michigan and called for support of DAPA. If enacted, DAPA would defer the deportations of up to five million undocumented parents, granting them work permits.

It is immigration reform that would change the lives of high school student Karla Padilla and her mother.

“It’s really scary because you never know when it’s the last time you’re going to see your mom or your parents,” said Padilla.

Unlike her brother who was born in the United States, Padilla came to the country with her mother when she was five-years-old; but she only remembers this country as her own.

“This is my home, this is where I grew up,” said Padilla. “All the memories I have, I don’t remember a lot of stuff when I was in Mexico because I was really little. So I consider myself an American.”

Introduced in 2014, the Texas Attorney General quickly challenged DAPA in federal court, which then went to a court of appeals: both federal courts found DAPA to be unconstitutional. Just last month the Supreme Court said it would hear the case this spring, and decide whether President Obama overstepped his presidential powers.

With the death of Scalia, Calvin College American Politics Professor Doug Koopman said that could change.

“If the Supreme Court does not hear, or does not rule, or has a 4-4 decision, that lower court decision stands,” said Koopman. “Therefore, at least in that jurisdiction of the United States, that DAPA will not be enforced, it will not be enforced the way President Obama wants it to be.”

In the past, presidents’ Supreme Court justice nominations have been approved more often than not in an election year. However, Koopman does not believe Scalia’s seat will be filled this year.

“This year is a particularly partisan year and this is a particularly important justice: Scalia really was the advocate for the conservative or the original or the texturalist side of things,” said Koopman.

“His replacement will tip the balance of the court. It’s such a high stakes issues, it’s doubtful that it will be filled this year.”

As we wait for the high court’s move on this case, leaders call on communities for greater support of DAPA and to come out and vote in this critical election year.

“Folks have to still be very supportive of DACA and DAPA and to meet with their representatives,” said Roberto Torres, Hispanic Center of West Michigan executive director. “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the American thing to do.”

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