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The Supreme Court Deadlocks on Immigration

The tie in the United States’ highest court all but ensures the end for Barack Obama’s plan to protect undocumented parents from deportation.

By Kate Wheeling


Barack Obama discusses the Supreme Court ruling on June 23, 2016. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The United States Supreme Court announced yesterday that it was deadlocked in a case against President Barack Obama’s plan to shield as many as five million unauthorized immigrants from deportation. The four–four tie means that an appeals court decision blocking the plan will stand — a devastating blow for Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, which he had “hoped would become one of his central legacies,” the New York Timesreports.

As its name suggests, the program would have given the undocumented parents of citizens or permanent residents a shot to avoid deportation and receive work permits. Twenty-six states challenged the plan, however, arguing that Obama’s executive action to implement the program was an abuse of power. But opposition to immigration reform runs deeper than just preserving the limits of executive power. There are a couple common concerns cited by the most vocal anti-immigrant groups in the United States.

Pacific Standard rounded up the research to find out if their concerns are warranted.

  • Do immigrants really steal jobs? All signs point to no. As Ana Aparicio reported earlier this year, there’s solid evidence that immigrant labor enhances our economic productivity, but little evidence that they take jobs from Americans. Immigrants are often employed in low-skilled labor; in other words, occupations that don’t require advanced degrees. Research shows that “the number of U.S.-born workers without a college degree has declined over the past decade,” Aparicio explains.
  • Do immigrants increase crime? Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may believe that all Mexican immigrants bring drugs across the border, but the research suggests that it’s much more likely that they pick up drug-using behaviors after they get to the U.S. In March, Pacific Standardcovered a study that found drug and alcohol use increases with each generation once a family moves to the U.S., and “even along major trafficking routes where drugs are readily available, illicit drug use is lower among immigrants than it is on national levels.”
  • The same pattern seems to hold for other kinds of crime. As Claude Fischer wrote in 2015: “Studies of individuals show that, as two experts summarize, “immigrants are less, not more, crime prone than their native-born counterparts.” Second- and third-generation immigrants start to look more like many-generation Americans in criminality (much as they do in other ways, such as diet and health behaviors). One study suggests that, for adolescents, the “protective” effect against criminality of being an immigrant may wear off after four years. But newcomers are notably less likely to commit crime than otherwise similar American-born youth.”
  • Acculturation also seems to negatively affect the academic performance of immigrant families over generations. “In keeping with the wider literature, [researchers] found that first-generation immigrants who moved to Florida during grade school scored better on tests and graduated at higher rates than second-generation immigrants, who in turn out-performed third-generation students,” Elena Gooray wrote in Pacific Standard this week. “But what’s new in their study is that, for Latinos in particular, time introduces another puzzling dynamic: With each generation, English language skills, wealth, and quality of education explain less and less of the achievement gap with white students whose families immigrated two generations or more back.”

With all that in mind, it’s not all that surprising that the growth of the undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. has slowed in recent years.