Author Archives: Victoria Johnson

UndocuBlack and NILC Seek to Uncover the Truth Behind Trump Administration TPS Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, media@nilc.org, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, media@nilc.org, 202-384-1279

UndocuBlack and NILC Seek to Uncover the Truth Behind Trump Administration TPS Decision

Civil Rights and Social Justice Groups to Urge the Trump Administration to Reauthorize Temporary Protected Status for Haitians

WASHINGTON — Days before the Trump Administration announces whether it will re-authorize Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian migrants, civil rights and social justice leaders emphasized the importance of the program for Haitians in the United States and in Haiti, as well as for the national interests of both countries.

The call for reauthorization of TPS for Haitians comes after the Associated Press last week exposed leaked emails from high-ranking DHS officials requesting data on Haitian nationals’ use of public benefits and crime rates. Although DHS officials have denied any connection between these requests and the timing of their decision, the news sent shockwaves through the Haitian community.

UndocuBlack and NILC filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the agencies involved in the adjudication process to uncover the administration’s decision-making. Those agencies are the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the DHS sub agencies U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, representatives for the National Immigration Law Center, the UndocuBlack Network, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) urged the administration to extend the program beyond its current July 22 expiration, noting that recovery efforts following the devastating 2010 earthquake and, more recently, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, have been uneven.

Lys Isma, a student who works in a Biology Genetics lab at her University in Florida, described the consequences of the 2010 earthquake for her and her family and what could happen to them if TPS for Haiti is not renewed. Isma is a member of UndocuBlack who has lived in the United States since she was nine months old.

“It shouldn’t be an easy decision to send somebody to the poorest country in this half of the world, where they don’t have any memories and where they can hardly speak the language,” Isma said. “Where you live should never determine if you live.”

TPS gives individuals from designated countries temporary permission to live and work in the United States on humanitarian grounds if they are here at times of great natural disaster or civil strife in their home country. Thirteen countries, including Haiti, are currently designated for TPS.

According to media reports, 58,000 Haitians stand to lose TPS and would be forced to return to their ravaged homeland if the designation is withdrawn. The Trump administration has until May 23, 2017, to announce its decision.

Tia Oso, National Organizer at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), said:

“TPS for Haiti is a vital program, not just for the Haitian community, but for everyone that lives and works alongside them in Boston, Miami, Brooklyn and beyond. The Black Alliance for Just Immigration is calling on everyone to stand with the Haitian diaspora in the U.S. and fight for TPS, and condemn the Trump administration’s racist, xenophobic witch-hunt against Haitian TPS holders and other immigrants.”

Olivia Golden, Executive Director at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a national anti-poverty organization, said:

“The federal government’s probe into public benefit use—which in practice mostly means health and nutrition supports for children—is deeply concerning. It is clearly part of a larger agenda by the Trump Administration that began in January to create fear and a chilling effect across immigrant communities, threatening access to the fundamental health care and nutrition that families need and deserve. Scaring parents away from accessing critical services for their citizen children as well as potentially deporting thousands of Haitian TPS holders would have deeply damaging long-term consequences for not only Haitian TPS holders, their families, and their communities, but also our shared national interest.”

Alvaro Huerta, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said:

“TPS has been an economic lifeline to Haitians both here in the United States and in Haiti. Haitian-Americans have built economic and social ties to this country, and they have friends and family here. These ties would be severed if these individuals lost TPS designation, and the economic ripple effects would extend far beyond TPS holders themselves. We are deeply concerned that the rules for TPS may be shifting for Haitians, and we want to know why.”

Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Creator and National Coordinator of the Undocublack Network, said:

“Renewing TPS is about maintaining the dignity of human lives and protecting their choice to migrate to avoid extreme circumstances in Haiti and live. We’ve seen the extraordinary measures and the discriminatory factors the administration is taking into consideration while weighing this decision. As Black immigrant communities, we are very aware of how agencies, organizations and institutions have sought to equate Blackness and poverty with criminality, and used that mantle to deny our communities of our human rights. That’s why today we took the unprecedented step of filing this FOIA Request, our first as an organization.”

Audio for today’s call is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/HAITI-051717.mp3

A copy of today’s FOIA request is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Haitian-TPS-FOIA.pdf

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NILC Responds to Defeat of ACA Replacement Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, media@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

NILC Responds to Defeat of ACA Replacement Bill

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday failed to reach a consensus and were forced to abandon their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dealing a blow to President Trump and GOP lawmakers who for years have promised to do away with the law passed under the Obama administration.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“For seven years, we’ve seen access to our health care system improve for millions of Americans thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which, while not perfect, has saved countless lives and livelihoods. Key components of this landmark law provide the cornerstone upon which our society should build a system that provides health care for all.

“This Republican health care legislation, in contrast, would have been worse than repeal alone. The proposed bill would have left tens of millions of people across our country—including many immigrants—without access to health insurance. It was a bad deal for everyone, and we are all better off for its defeat.

“President Trump should know by now that every one of his attempts to further disenfranchise vulnerable populations, including immigrants, will be met with resistance. This is the first of many fights to come. Whether it’s in Congress, in the courtroom, or working alongside our partner organizations and communities, we will continue to fight back against any attack on our families.”

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Federal Court Blocks Trump Muslim and Refugee Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, media@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

Federal Court Blocks Trump Muslim and Refugee Ban

WASHINGTON — A federal court in Hawaii today blocked key parts of President Donald Trump’s revised executive order barring entry to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries and suspending refugee resettlement. The court found that the Muslim and refugee bans were likely to be unconstitutional, and ordered that the federal government not reduce refugee admissions from 110,000 to 50,000. The court’s temporary restraining order is in place nationwide.

The decision comes just hours before the revised executive order, signed by Trump on March 6, was scheduled to take effect.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Trump’s discriminatory Muslim and refugee ban, in any iteration, is a clear example of how this administration uses the politics of fear and hate to enact its xenophobic agenda. The courts—and the country—saw through this effort, which has been roundly rejected over and over. It’s clear that no amount of tweaking will undo the discriminatory intent behind this policy. Today’s decision is a victory for the rule of law and reminder that no one—not even the president—is above the Constitution.”

In a separate case, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), with our partners at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Maryland, sued on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project of the Urban Justice Center, HIAS, and the Middle East Studies Association, along with individuals, including U.S. citizens, affected by the ban. A federal judge in Maryland is expected to issue a ruling in that case later today.

The temporary restraining order can be viewed here: www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/HI-TRO.pdf.

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Ninth Circuit Keeps Muslim Ban Temporary Restraining Order in Place

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

Ninth Circuit Keeps Muslim Ban Temporary Restraining Order in Place

LOS ANGELES — A panel of federal judges today rejected the Trump administration’s request to stay a temporary restraining order that temporarily blocks key sections of President Donald Trump’s Muslim and refugee ban executive order, which he signed on January 27.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today acted, as the courts are supposed to, as a necessary check on the blatantly unconstitutional overreach President Trump made in issuing this unlawful and un-American executive order.

“This decision means, for now, that people seeking refuge from horrific conditions will not be turned away, that families torn apart by this discriminatory policy can reunite, and that America can continue to benefit from the contributions of immigrants who have long fueled the engines of innovation and helped our communities thrive. We are grateful to the state of Washington—and to all the other states, business leaders, and others who filed friend-of-the-court briefs—for being leaders in the fight to stop President Trump’s shameful actions.”

The complaint is available at https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/2-9-17-9th-Circuit-Order.pdf.

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First Lawsuit Filed Challenging Trump’s Order Banning Refugees from the United States

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2017

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

First Lawsuit Filed Challenging Trump’s Order Banning Refugees from the United States

NEW YORK — Today some of the nation’s leading civil rights groups filed the first legal challenge to the Trump administration’s executive order banning refugees and other individuals from certain countries from entering the United States. The complaint was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of New York on behalf of two Iraqi men who were targeted by insurgents for their associations with the U.S. military and who were approved for resettlement in the United States earlier this month. They were denied entry and detained at JFK Airport, though one has now been released.

Karen Tumlin, legal director at National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Trump’s order keeps some of the world’s most vulnerable people in life-threatening danger. This order has wreaked havoc on the lives of the thousands of refugees who desperately need safe refuge from violence and terror, many of whom have already been approved to resettle in the United States and are traveling to be reunited with family and loved ones right now. Many refugees, like our clients, risked their lives to help the United States government. The fact that the government has now decided to turn its back on those who served and protected us isn’t just unconscionable—it’s unconstitutional.”

Today’s filing is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1-complaint.pdf.

More information about this case is available at www.nilc.org/darweesh-v-trump/.

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NILC Decries Justice Denied to Millions of Immigrant Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 3, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149

NILC Decries Justice Denied to Millions of Immigrant Families

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to rehear arguments in United States v. Texas, denying millions of immigrant families who would benefit from the Obama administration’s 2014 immigration executive actions their fair day before a full court.

The decision to forego a rehearing comes after an eight-justice Court failed to reach a majority in the case last session, letting a lower court ruling stand that blocked the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The two initiatives would have allowed eligible undocumented immigrants to remain with their families and work in the U.S. temporarily without fear of deportation.

The Justice Department filed a petition for a rehearing in July, asking to reargue the case before a full bench once a ninth justice is confirmed.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director at the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Once again, the Judiciary has allowed the politics of obstruction to prevail over justice. Legal experts across the board agree that a rehearing was not only appropriate, but necessary, in U.S. v. Texas. And yet, the Justices failed to do what’s best for the country by allowing this case to be reconsidered once the Supreme Court is fully staffed.

“The issues in U.S. v. Texas are too big for our country to accept a decision by default by the nation’s highest court. DAPA and the expansion of DACA would provide much needed relief to millions of families who live in constant fear of being separated from their loved ones. Furthermore, the two initiatives would reap sizable economic and public safety gains for our country.

“The fact that the Supreme Court has continued to fail to act on the nation’s most pressing issues only serves to remind us that we need a fully functional court today, not next year. We call upon the Senate to do its job and provide that ninth justice without delay. Today’s decision raises the stakes for the November elections even more. Voters must turn out to ensure that we elect a president who will shape the future of the country – not just for the next four years but for decades – as she or he will get to nominate several Supreme Court justices. ”

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Civil Rights Groups: House Hearing Just Another Anti-Immigrant Sideshow

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, gastelum@nilc.org, 213-375-3149
Adam Luna, United We Dream, adam@unitedwedream.org
Carl Lipscombe, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, carl@blackalliance.org

Civil Rights Groups: House Hearing Just Another Anti-Immigrant Sideshow

Political Leaders Should Move Past Xenophobic Rhetoric

WASHINGTON – As the House Judiciary Committee plans for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) oversight hearing with ICE Director Sarah Saldaña tomorrow at 10 a.m. ET, we call on those looking to be leaders on immigration to cast aside harmful and xenophobic rhetoric that divides our communities and instead focus on realistic, humane and just reforms. House Judiciary Committee members, along with Ms. Saldaña, have a long history of using irresponsible rhetoric that paints our country’s diverse and vibrant immigrant communities in a sweeping and denigrating light and ignores their enormous social and economic contributions.

Avideh Moussavian, Policy Attorney, National Immigration Law Center: “Anyone serious about ICE oversight should be asking why ICE is criminalizing immigrant communities through aggressive tactics like home raids that create a ripple effect of fear. Why is ICE targeting vulnerable populations of women and children seeking asylum in the U.S. and flagrantly violating due process by denying immigrants any meaningful opportunity to present their case to a judge? Meaningful oversight means ensuring that ICE is held accountable for complying with civil rights laws, and that there is transparency for how the agency operates.”

Carl Lipscombe, Policy & Legal Manager, Black Alliance for Just Immigration: “ICE policies are destroying black and brown immigrant communities. On one hand, you’ve got lawmakers on all sides calling for criminal justice reform, and the Department of Justice saying it rejects destructive labels like “felon” and “convict” and that it wants to cut ties with prison profiteers. In alarming contrast, DHS continues to incarcerate immigrants at record levels and promote damaging stereotypes about our communities.”

Greisa Martinez Rosas, Advocacy Director, United We Dream: “Our country needs fewer deportations and more relief on immigration. Instead, this Congressional committee is demanding more deportations and less relief. Director Saldaña leads an agency that is guilty of abusing our communities. Director Saldaña and her agency should be held accountable for this abuse but instead, Congressional leaders are berating her for not separating families quickly enough.”

Tomorrow’s hearing will be streamed on https://judiciary.house.gov/hearing/oversight-united-states-immigration-customs-enforcement/.

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Arizona Attorney General Issues Opinion Establishing Constitutional Standards for Enforcement of Key SB 1070 Provisions, Ending Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 15, 2016

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, 213-375-3149, gastelum@nilc.org
Steve Kilar, ACLU of Arizona, 602-492-8540, skilar@acluaz.org
Inga Sarda-Sorensen, ACLU National, 212-284-7347, isarda-sorensen@aclu.org
Sandra Hernandez, MALDEF, 213-629-2512 ext. 129, shernandez@maldef.org
Armando Carmona, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, 951-966-6500, armando@ndlon.org

Arizona Attorney General Issues Opinion Establishing Constitutional Standards for Enforcement of Key SB 1070 Provisions, Ending Lawsuit

Immigrants’ and civil rights groups vow to monitor enforcement of “show me your papers” law

PHOENIX — The Arizona Attorney General’s Office today issued an opinion establishing guidelines for the implementation of two remaining provisions of the state’s 2010 racial profiling law, SB 1070.

With the opinion, the organizations that brought Valle del Sol et al. v. Whiting et al. have agreed to conclude this challenge to SB 1070, which the courts have largely rendered unenforceable.

Every criminal provision of SB 1070 has been blocked, and today’s attorney general opinion, which will be sent to law enforcement agencies across the state, sets down narrow guidelines for how two remaining provisions of the law, sections 2(B) and 2(D), can be enforced. The opinion dictates that officers may not use race or ethnicity to develop reasonable suspicion that someone is unlawfully present in the United States, may not stop people solely to investigate immigration status, and may not hold people in order to investigate immigration status if it will extend the stop beyond the time necessary to address the state law basis for the contact.

“Arizona blazed a trail of mean-spirited policies intended to starve and isolate immigrants six years ago, and many states followed this flawed path,” said MALDEF’s National Senior Counsel Victor Viramontes. “After millions of dollars spent on lawyers, multiple federal decisions blocking key provisions of the law, and finally a state-issued opinion severely constraining local law enforcement, Arizona’s policies have failed to serve anyone living in Arizona.”

“This last step in the SB 1070 litigation makes it clear that what the legislature intended—and much of the immigration enforcement that police in Arizona previously engaged in—is unlawful,” said Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The attorney general’s legal opinion makes it clear that no one can be detained based on suspected immigration status, and no one can be targeted because of their race. Officers who do not pay scrupulous attention to the limits of their authority will be held accountable, just as Sheriff Arpaio has been held accountable.”

“Thanks to the inspiring people who brought this lawsuit, the state of Arizona is finally making a public commitment to permanently uphold basic civil rights protections threatened by its misguided 2010 anti-immigrant law,” said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center. “While this important agreement marks an end to a hard-fought legal battle, we will continue to be vigilant to ensure that local law enforcement doesn’t violate these important protections. A recognition of the rights of communities of color on paper is not enough until it is reflected in the lived experience of all Arizonans.”

Plaintiffs in the case include Valle del Sol, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Service Employees International Union, the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, Southside Presbyterian Church of Tucson, Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, Arizona South Asians for Safe Families, the Asian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona, Border Action Network, the Arizona Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, and Tonatierra Community Development Institute.

Counsel on the case include the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project, the ACLU of Arizona, the National Day Labor Organizing Network, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Ortega Law Firm, P.C., Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and Altshuler Berzon LLP.

The Arizona Attorney General opinion filed today is available here: www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/1297-1-Exhibit-A-Proposed-Attorney-General-Opinion.pdf

The joint agreement to end Valle del Sol et al. v. Whiting et al. is available here: www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/1297-Joint-Case-Disposition.pdf

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Expanded Medi-Cal for undocumented kids: What it means and how to apply

Expanded Medi-Cal for undocumented kids
What it means and how to apply

By Gabrielle Lessard, NILC health policy attorney
JULY 28, 2016

This summer, California kids have access to more than the state’s famous beaches. Under a new law that took effect this spring, all low-income California residents under age 19 are eligible to receive comprehensive health care through Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. Children and youth who did not meet immigration status requirements were previously eligible for only “restricted scope” emergency and pregnancy services.

California is not the first state to provide comprehensive health care to low-income children regardless of their immigration status—New York, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts and Washington, DC, all preceded California. However, the number of undocumented residents in California is significantly higher than in the other states. Just prior to the implementation of the Medi-Cal eligibility expansion, there were close to 135,000 children and youth enrolled in restricted-scope Medi-Cal. These beneficiaries are being transitioned into full-scope coverage without having to submit an application; however, they need to choose a primary physician and, in some counties, a health plan.

Many newly eligible children and youth were not enrolled in restricted scope coverage and will need to submit a Medi-Cal application. These include a significant number of children served through a program operated as a charitable activity of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, children enrolled in county-operated programs, and those without a current source of health care or coverage.

Advocates for children, immigrants, and access to health care recognized that outreach and education were needed to reach families whose children were not currently connected to the health-care system. Resources were required both to inform families about the Medi-Cal expansion and to reassure them that it was safe to enroll their children. The advocates collaborated in the development of a Health4AllKids website that provides information in English and Spanish and a toolkit for community-based organizations to use in doing outreach. The California Endowment, a statewide health foundation, developed and distributed signs, shirts, flyers, and other resources to support outreach, and produced and placed advertisements informing consumers of the expansion.

Expanding Medi-Cal to all kids was an important step forward for California. But until all California residents have access to comprehensive, affordable health care, our children and youth will continue to suffer the financial insecurity and emotional pain of having family members without insurance. NILC and our partners will continue working until we have #Health4All

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The Ties That Bind: The Supreme Court and the U.S. v. Texas Deadlock

The Ties That Bind

By Alvaro Huerta, NILC staff attorney
JULY 19, 2016

There’s an oft-quoted aphorism about the United States Supreme Court written by the late Justice Robert H. Jackson: “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”

The words reflect Justice Jackson’s recognition that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of vexing national questions, not because the justices of the Court are always right, but because they get the final say.

Yet, in one of the most significant cases before the tribunal this term, the Supreme Court passed the buck. In United States v. Texas, a case examining the Executive’s ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer the deportation of immigrants with strong ties to our country, the Court could not garner a majority. Due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year, the Court currently has only eight justices. The result: a handful of 4–4 tie votes and the uncertainty that comes with inconclusiveness.

The 4–4 tie in Texas resulted in an order from the Supreme Court that reads, in full, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.” This solitary, nine-word sentence dashed the hopes of millions — immigrants and their citizen family members — who anxiously await clarity about their fate in this country.

The Court failed them. It failed all of us.

But is the Supreme Court to blame? The Senate has gone a record-breaking 125 days without granting a hearing to determine whether President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Scalia is fit to serve on the nation’s highest court. That is downright shameful.

Neither infallible nor final, the Texas nondecision was a striking disappointment. And, more than any other case this year, Texas showed how the Court — without the full complement of its nine justices — has had its hands tied by Congress. The Supreme Court, like the country, seems a house divided.

But it wasn’t always this way. The Court has managed to decide a number of major, groundbreaking cases with five of nine justices carrying the day. Important civil rights, many of which we now take for granted, have been won by what might feel like the skin of their teeth.By 5–4 decisions, the Supreme Court has established a suspect’s right against self-incrimination (Miranda v. Arizona), the ability of universities to diversify their student bodies (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke), and the right to marry the person you love (Obergefell v. Hodges).

The Court also split 5–4 in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which upheld major provisions of the Affordable Care Act and thereby allowed millions of Americans to keep the health insurance they need to live healthy and productive lives.

To be sure, many of our most treasured civil rights have been established by stronger majorities. But the Court has proven time and again that, when it’s at its full nine-justice capacity, it can get the job done. And the recognition of these inalienable rights has moved our country forward along the path toward justice.

We need a full Court in order for justice to be realized. The Senate must fill the vacancy left by Justice Scalia’s death more than five months ago. As the 4–4 tie in Texas proves, the political dog-and-pony show currently playing itself out in the Senate and being pushed by Republicans who will go to great lengths to stymie the president’s nominee has tied the hands of the Supreme Court. Justice, and all of us, suffer for it.

There’s a silver lining, at least when it comes to the Texas case. The Department of Justice has requested that the Court rehear the case. With any luck, the Court will grant the request and bring much-needed resolution to an issue that affects the whole country. But without a ninth justice, the Supreme Court is in danger of finding itself bound by further ties, and more nondecisions are sure to result.

Justice should not be left undone by stalemate. The stakes are far too high and the political maneuvering has hit a disappointing new low. It’s time for the Senate to do its job so that nine Supreme Court justices can do theirs.

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