Op-Ed Take The Immigration Fight To The States

Undocumented immigrants were dealt a major setback last week. After a coalition of conservative states sued the Obama administration over its plans to grant deportation relief to the parents of American citizens, the Supreme Court deadlocked on whether or not to lift a lower court’s injunction on the program. The case of United States v. Texas will now go back to the lower court, where the fate of Obama’s executive action looks unfavorable.

Immigration advocates decried the Supreme Court’s ruling, pointing to the harm that inaction poses to mixed-status families. Many of them have vowed to continue the fight, pushing to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, elect another Democratic president willing to take further executive action, and perhaps even elect a new Congress willing to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But evidence from the last decade has shown the limits of an immigration reform strategy that is fixated on the federal government. Instead, activists should pay more attention to the states, where policy victories and political momentum are more likely.

Immigrant advocates did score a major victory in 2012, when the Supreme Court struck down most aspects of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law. But federal courts have left intact many other state-level restrictions, such as penalties on businesses that hire workers in the country illegally. And the recent Texas case is likely to embolden conservative governors and attorneys general, who will increasingly look to federal trial courts as a way to fight future presidential action on immigration.

BY Karthick Ramakrishnan & Pratheepan Gulasekaram for Los Angeles Time
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