The Breakfast Table

The Supreme Court immigration ruling wasn’t inconsequential.

Entry 15: Yes, this ruling matters.

Rosario Reyes, an undocumented mother from El Salvador, reacts to news on a Supreme Court decision blocking Obama’s immigration plan.

Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Dick is mistaken about the consequences of the Supreme Court’s tie vote on the president’s immigration guidance. He is right that the Department of Homeland Security is not required to move to deport any of the individuals who would have benefited from the guidance. What he’s missing is the importance of the ability to work lawfully that was the heart and soul of the initiative: Under the program, 4.3 million people, parents of American citizens or lawful permanent residents, are eligible to apply for a three-year grant of deferred deportation. If that forbearance were granted, they would then be authorized to work lawfully in the United States. It would not be unlawful for employers to hire them, and they would be entitled to the benefits and protection of employment laws. Thus, the guidance would enable hardworking people to be employed above board and on-the-books. This would both address the human concerns of these people and mitigate competitive harm to citizen workers from an underground economy.

The guidance recognizes that these are people who, under any set of laws, are likely to remain in the United States. The forbearance of the guidance applies to two categories who, in fact, have strong ties to this country: parents of citizens and those who came here as children, many of whom have never known another country. As the solicitor general told the court, deferred action and work authorization “provides some measure of dignity and decent treatment” and, most importantly, access to the lawful employment markets of America. Mistreatment in the illegal market’s shadows would a thing of the past for those who qualified.

It is said 4.3 million people would be qualified to apply for deferred action and the ability lawfully to help support their families. That understates the number affected: Those individuals are parts of extended families the number whose hopes of a more dignified life were set back by the court’s inaction was many millions more. That is far from inconsequential.

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