Editorial: Deadlock on immigration
by El Paso Times Editorial Board—
The Supreme Court handed down a widely anticipated split decision that effectively blocks President Obama’s executive actions on immigration enforcement.
The decision is perhaps the best illustration yet of the policy paralysis of our largely dysfunctional federal government.
Our nation’s immigration system is broken, a fact that virtually no one in government disputes. But deepening partisanship has prevented any congressional action.
Obama, frustrated by the inaction on immigration reform, issued executive orders that essentially clarified the enforcement priorities when it comes to deportation. Convicted criminals, national security threats and those who recently entered the country illegally were the top priorities; longer-term migrants with children who are U.S. citizens would not be deportation targets.
Obama acted under the executive branch’s longstanding authority to set priorities on clearly executive functions such as law enforcement.
The state of Texas and 25 other states sued to block the executive actions, and conservative-leaning federal courts ruled in favor of Texas.
The administration appealed to the Supreme Court. But it became clear after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia that the court was likely to divide 4-4 on the case, and that’s precisely what happened.
As a result of the tie, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling blocking the executive action stays in place, and a final determination will be left to a future Supreme Court.
The Republican-controlled Senate has refused to even consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Scalia. Garland likely couldn’t have been confirmed in time to participate in this case, but Republican leaders see the 4-4 split as vindication of their obstinance.
Political paralysis is now feeding on itself.
This editorial board for years has urged that Republicans and Democrats work together to craft an immigration reform plan that would enhance border security, clean up disjointed policies that make it difficult for U.S. companies to attract needed talent, and create a path to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants who have been contributing to our society in the shadows.
It is a position reiterated by Catholic Bishops Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces and Mark Seitz of El Paso in response to the Supreme Court deadlock.
“When Pope Francis visited our country and addressed Congress, he reminded lawmakers that ‘when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and errors of the past,’” the bishops said in a statement issued in conjunction with the Border Hope Institute. “Today’s sad ruling reinforces our commitment to work for truly comprehensive, permanent immigration reform. We call on Congress to do the same.”
Of course, there is no chance at all that Congress will take on immigration reform this year. Perhaps something may happen after this year’s election, but it’s difficult to see how this fierce campaign will lessen our nation’s partisan divide.
At some point, however, this nation and its political leaders will have to address its challenges. A convoluted and broken immigration system is at the top of the list.