Two focuses of Wednesday’s presidential debate are issues that have thrown into sharp relief the long-term stakes of this election: the Supreme Court and immigration. With Donald Trump promising mass deportations while Hillary Clinton pledges to immediately introduce comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and with the next president expected to nominate multiple justices for lifetime appointments, the effects of the November election will be felt not only for the next four to eight years, but for a generation.
So needless to say I will be paying close attention to what’s said in the final debate.
The Supreme Court’s decisions directly impact the lives of millions of Latinos and immigrants. Exhibit A? United States v. Texas, the lawsuit challenging President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court only to end in a deadlocked 4-4 vote that blocked the Obama administration from moving forward with the policies—policies that would have allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for protection from deportation and work permits. Just one additional justice could have turned the tide and changed the course of millions of lives.
The fact that these are the kinds of issues on which the Supreme Court has the deciding say shows why it couldn’t be more important whether it’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton picking our justices.
A Trump presidency would not only mean horrific policy changes on immigration—after all, this is a man who has proposed mass deportations and an end to the DACA program protecting DREAMers on Day One—it would lead to a Supreme Court that would cement Trump’s disregard for immigrant rights into the law for decades. Right-wing justices on the Supreme Court have consistently upheld restrictive laws on immigration, and the addition of justices in the same mold would mean a Court that would likely uphold Trump’s policies as well. And the fact that the new justices would be selected by someone who believes that a judge of Mexican descent can’t be unbiased highlights the danger of putting the nomination process in Trump’s hands.
Beyond immigration, the Supreme Court settles legal questions on countless other issues that directly impact Latino and immigrant communities, and our society more broadly. On workers’ rights, for example, the Supreme Court has already severely weakened laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace—and it could get much worse with Trump as the president. One person Trump listed as a possible Supreme Court nominee has gone as far as to argue that federal laws on child labor and the minimum wage are unconstitutional. Laws about protecting our environment are also at stake. The fate of President Obama’s clean power plan, which would fight climate change and prevent an estimated 3,600 premature deaths each year, will most likely be decided by the Supreme Court.
As the most powerful court in the country, the Supreme Court can act to uphold important laws protecting our families, health, our democracy, and our individual rights—or it can tear those laws down. It all depends on who is serving on the Court making those decisions.
Hillary Clinton has outlined a very different vision for her Supreme Court nominees than Donald Trump. Clinton has made clear that she would pick Supreme Court justices who respect the Constitution, who “ understand the way the world really works” and who will not prioritize the interests of wealthy special interests over those of the American people.
Everyone who cares about the Constitution and who cares about the future of immigration laws, workers’ rights, the environment, or any other issue should listen carefully on Wednesday to the plans the presidential candidates have for the most influential court in our country. As for me? I’ll be voting for the candidate who believes her Supreme Court nominees should safeguard the rights of all of us.
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