The future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), programs that cover millions of undocumented immigrants in the country, many of whom have lived in the US for several years — even decades — may be negatively affected should the Republicans succeed in putting another conservative on the Supreme Court.
That’s the fear of many pro-immigrant groups and activists, for whom the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18 spells disaster for years to come.
“Ginsburg always supported the cause of inclusion for all people who live in the United States, whether it was gender, race, immigration status,” said Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
“She was a person who always defended us,” Salas said. “We knew she was going to support our cause, the fair treatment of our immigrant community.”
President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court by Saturday, Sept. 26, adding it would be a woman. Among the leading candidates are Amy Coney Barrett and Cuban-American Barbara Lagoa, both staunchly conservative.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has vowed to bring the nominee to a vote as soon as possible, a controversial move given that in 2016 he refused to do the same when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, arguing it shouldn’t be done because it was an election year.
With the Nov. 3 election less than 40 days away, the Senate would have to rush the nomination in record time. The process lasts on average 79 days, though Ginsburg’s nomination in 1993 was approved in 50 days, while Clarence Thomas’ nomination in 1991 lasted 99 days.
Should either Barrett or Lagoa be ratified in the Senate, they would tip the scales of the Supreme Court toward a 6-3 advantage for the conservative side, an insurmountable difference that could impact decisions for generations to come.
That’s a worrisome scenario for Salas, who notes the decision on TPS — which the 9th Circuit of Appeals recently said could be dismantled by the Trump Administration — will surely land there sooner rather than later.
Another important immigration case that will get there is DACA. Last year the Supreme Court blocked the Trump Administration effort to end the program, but the decision was not promising. The Court did not rule that ending DACA was unconstitutional, but that the reasoning used by the Trump White House for ending it was not sufficient.
“She (Ginsburg) sided with us when they didn’t want to count the immigrant community in the Census,” Salas said. “It’s a great loss because we know that President Trump will push for a conservative, an ally who will share the same thinking as Trump.”
That will turn the Supreme Court more “racist,” said Gloria Saucedo, executive director for Centro Mexico in Panorama City.
“With her (Ginsburg) we knew we had an ally of civil rights, not only for immigrants, but the entire community, and especially women.
“(Her death) is a big harm to the immigrant community. The best thing is that (the Senate) waits until after the election and the next president pick someone who doesn’t have such conservative tendencies.”
Voting is Vital
“It’s terrible that she passed away in a moment of such historical importance for the United States,” lamented Juan Jose Gutierrez of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.
So far, he said, immigrants “have barely been able to salvage” some cases before the Supreme Court, despite a 5-4 conservative advantage. But if that advantage grows, it would be “a huge hit” to immigration cases decided there.
Gutierrez hopes the Senate doesn’t vote on Trump’s nominee before the election, but emphasizes voting is now more important than ever. Should Biden win, and Democrats win more seats in the Senate and retain the House, that could negate some of the damages posed by a new conservative justice in the Supreme Court.
And even if the nominee is the Cuban-American candidate —which he says would be seen as progress and good news for Latinos — this time it would be seen as detrimental.
“She’s from the Latin American ultra-right, which does not see Mexicans and other Latinos as equal, but as inferior,” Gutierrez said. “It would not be something to celebrate because they don’t sympathize with immigrants.”
Gutierrez worries that if Republicans are successful and place another conservative justice on the Supreme Court, the transformation brought on by the civil rights fight of the 1960s would go to dust.
“They could reverse all that and it would cause a lot of damage, to all of us,” he said.