SCOTUS 101: Tie Vote Brings Open Seat Into Focus

Spanish sign reads "Listen SCOTUS!"

Spanish sign reads “Listen SCOTUS!”

Though technically not a decision at all, the ruling in United States v. Texas is one of the most important in the Supreme Court’s recent cases — and it will have reverberations on the November election.

Often opinions are abstract legal documents full of arcane language spanning dozens or hundreds of pages. Accordingly, many Americans do not feel directly connected to the workings of our land’s highest court.

In contrast, although the ruling in United States v. Texas is only nine words long, its impact will be keenly felt by millions in our country. Here is the ruling in full:

The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.

This case concerned President Obama’s policy of deferring deportation and allowing employment for four million undocumented immigrants. These include immigrants with American children and the so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children and attended school here.

Since Antonin Scalia passed away in February, the Supreme Court has been left with only eight justices on the bench. While the ruling in United States v. Texas is unsigned, it can be assumed that the four liberal justices (Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) wanted to overrule the lower court, while the four conservative justices (Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito) wanted to affirm its ruling that Obama’s deferred action policy constituted an unconstitutional expansion of presidential authority.

Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision. This is part of the consequence of the Republican failure so far to give a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland, my nominee to the Supreme Court. It means that the expanded set of common-sense deferred action policies — the ones that I announced two years ago — can’t go forward at this stage, until there is a ninth justice on the Court to break the tie.

Republicans refuse to even consider any possible replacement for Scalia until January when the next president takes office.

While many Americans seemed unconcerned that our country’s highest court will be short-handed for an unprecedented length of time, while this split decision sets no legal precedent, and while (according to the United States Circuit Court for the Fifth Circuit’s earlier ruling) the secretary of Homeland Security’s ability to marshal and deploy department resources is not enjoined or impaired, it is painfully obvious that the ruling in this case will have enormous consequences: Millions of families are now in an uncertain legal situation; they may fear deportation if picked up on an unrelated matter; and they will have difficulty obtaining legal employment.

"[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court..."

“[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court…”

One does not have to be a legal scholar or a political pundit to intuit how this 4-4 split would have been avoided had the Senate filled its constitutional duty to provide its “advice and consent” and consider the president’s judicial nominees.

This election provides a stark contrast that will be easily understood by voters, especially those with friends or family at risk of being deported or forcefully separated from a loved one.

On one side, we have a party whose senators refuse to meet Obama’s nominee, Justice Merrick Garland; whose representatives refused to consider “Dreamer” legislation; and whose presidential nominee wants to build a wall on our borders, doubts the qualifications of Hispanic judges and advocates banning immigrants of certain faiths.

While on the other side, we have a presidential candidate who stands up for “Dreamers.”

I’m going to do everything I can so you don’t have to be scared. And you don’t have to worry about what happens to your mom or your dad or anyone else. I feel really, really strongly, but you’re being very brave and you have to be brave for them too. Because they want you to be happy. Let me do the worrying. I’ll do all the worrying. Is that a deal? I’ll do everything I can to help, OK?

As president, who would these candidates appoint to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court? And how would their judicial nominees break this deadlock when this issue is inevitably re-litigated before the Supreme Court?

If anyone doubted that the fate of the Supreme Court would weigh heavily on the presidential and congressional elections this November, I think this 4-4 non-decision puts the case to rest.

Beware of New Food-Stamp Requirements

Adults between 18-49 years old enrolled in the SNAP/Food Stamp program who are considered able-bodied without dependents will be limited to three months of SNAP benefits in a 3-year period as of June 1.

However, these recipients can retain their current benefits if they fulfill a work requirement, complete required volunteer hours or qualify for an exemption, according to Act Against Hunger, a local Jewish communal initiative of the MAZON Advocacy Project and the synagogues of the Old York Road Corridor in Montgomery County.

This change in the program will affect residents in Montgomery, Chester, and Bucks counties who rely on SNAP as a critical lifeline. Philadelphia and Delaware County residents are exempt because the unemployment rates in these counties are high.

“Despite lower employment, people still are having a hard time finding work,” said Act Against Hunger co-chair Robin Rifkin.

Losing SNAP benefits when someone is already struggling is like pulling out the rug from under them. Our goal is to get the word out so that people know and have time to find more work, or a place to volunteer, or show they qualify for an exemption to keep their SNAP benefits.

To meet the work requirement, one would need to prove they are working or participating in a job training program for at least 20 hours/week; or volunteering 26 hours/month. Reasons someone can be exempt from the work requirement include: enrolled part-time in school; applying for or receiving unemployment; receiving disability benefits; enrolled in a drug, alcohol treatment or mental health program; homeless; has a medical condition that prevents someone from working; pregnant; or caring for a disabled family member.

If you are a resident of Montgomery County or from an organization that can provide volunteer opportunities, contact Kara Beck, SNAP outreach coordinator at Montgomery County’s Community Action Development Commission (CADCOM), at [email protected] or 610 277-6363 x140.

Act Against Hunger has been working with local anti-hunger groups, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to reduce the barriers to SNAP, the federal program designed to provide nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families and ease the burden of poverty in communities.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is sending a survey to those who may be affected by this change, according to AAH, which is calling on recipients to complete it.

DHS Secretary Napolitano Visits Israel for Strategic Talks

— by David Streeter

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Israel this week for a number of strategic talks with high-level Israeli officials.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a press release recapping the first day of her trip:

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano … traveled to Jerusalem where she met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and other Israeli officials to discuss security-related issues, and signed a Joint Statement on the implementation of the Global Entry trusted traveler program for Israeli citizens with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

‘This agreement is part of the United States’ strong and enduring partnership with Israel, dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of both our countries,’ said Secretary Napolitano. ‘Global Entry will expedite the customs and security process for trusted Israeli air travelers arriving in the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security.’

Recap of the second day of the trip after the jump.
DHS said in a press release summarizing her second day in Israel:

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano … concluded her visit to Israel, delivering remarks on the Department’s collaboration with international partners to combat terrorism and facilitate trade and travel at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, and meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials to discuss security-related issues.

‘The United States remains steadfastly committed to Israel’s security.  The bonds between our two nations are unshakeable, lasting and critical to both our peoples,’ said Secretary Napolitano.

During her remarks, Secretary Napolitano underscored the importance of partnering with Israel to address shared challenges – from preventing terrorism to securing the global supply chain to preparing for and recovering from natural disasters….

Secretary Napolitano also met with Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Minister of Home Front Defense Matan Vilani to discuss cooperation and recent progress on issues related to information sharing, global supply chain security, aviation security and emergency management.

ADL Honors Napolitano for Leadership in Fight against Terrorism

— by Max Samis

At its National Leadership Conference this past weekend, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano with the ADL William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award. The award commemorates Napolitano’s “leadership in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.”

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman presented the award saying:

At this time of great challenge and evolving threats, our nation is fortunate to have Secretary Napolitano at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Napolitano knows that countering radicalization and violence is frequently best achieved by engaging and empowering individuals and groups at the local level to build resilience against violent extremism-a mantra the League also advocates. Her actions show that while law enforcement plays an essential role in keeping us safe, so too does engagement and partnership with communities.

Napolitano’s remarks follow the jump.
The ADL noted that:

Under Secretary Napolitano’s guidance, DHS has led efforts to protect critical infrastructure and cyber networks from attack, built partnerships with local and state law enforcement, identified foreign and domestic threat, coordinated with U.S. allies on issues such as arms trafficking, and enforced immigration standards.

In her remarks to the conference, Napolitano said she was “humbled” to receive the recognition from an organization such as the ADL. She said:

Receiving an award from an organization like the ADL, with its history of fighting inequality, bigotry and hatred is moving for me personally.

But I accept it tonight on behalf of the more than 240,000 men and women of DHS. This is truly a recognition of their collective efforts, day in and day out, to ensure the security of our country, while protecting fundamental human rights and civil liberties.

DHS does not do this work alone; we succeed through partnerships with organizations like yours. For nearly a century, Americans have known the ADL as a strong voice, standing against anti-Semitism, bigotry, and violent extremism, and for human rights and dignity.

I’m pleased that our partnership has expanded over the last few years, because at DHS, we believe that local authorities and organizations are best able to identify those individuals or groups exhibiting dangerous behaviors, and to intervene before they commit acts of violence…

As we know too well, hatred can inspire violence anywhere in the world, as we remind ourselves every year on Yom Ha’shoah.

On Monday, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama reminded the nation of our duty, not only to remember the Holocaust, but to prevent and respond to atrocities today, because, as he said, “…remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing.”…

The President has identified the prevention of mass atrocities as a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United   States, and our actions have sent a message to war criminals and would-be war-criminals that they will face justice.

President Obama also spoke of what we must do, and will do going forward, to meet the challenge of “never again” – to, as he said, “defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security.”

This is not an issue that can or should be addressed by our military alone, and DHS is proud of its part….

I’m pleased to note that DHS has a particularly strong partnership with our friend and steadfast ally Israel. I need not remind anyone here of the special bond shared between the United States and Israel. Not only do our two nation’s share strategic interests and face common dangers, but we share common values. And that’s why we’ve have increased cooperation between our two countries to unprecedented levels…

We have learned that an engaged, vigilant public is essential to efforts to prevent acts of terrorism, and all of our work to collaborate with the public and non-profits is clear in DHS’ relationship with the American Jewish community.

It’s a partnership that didn’t necessarily begin with this Administration, but I’m proud that we have built upon and expanded it under President Obama’s leadership. We have depended on this partnership recently as we’ve witnessed a number of high profile domestic and international events that have directly impacted the Jewish community, both here and abroad….

As people of conscience, you’re engaged on issues like immigration, all the areas we’ve discussed tonight, and many more – both as members of the ADL and in your every day lives. In the spirit of “tikkun olam,” you stand for civil rights and civil liberties for all. And we strive for that every day at DHS, as we tackle many complex and difficult issues facing our nation today.

National security and civil rights and liberties are not at odds – to the contrary, they bolster and support each other. A free society that engages all its people is inherently more secure than one that does not provide opportunity for all.

The ADL understands that intuitively, and I look forward to continuing our work together.

Past recipients of the ADL Gorowitz award include:

  • NYPD Assistant Chief and Commanding Officer of its Intelligence Division Thomas P. Galati;
  • former Boston, New York and Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton;
  • former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff;
  • former CIA Director George Tenet; former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh;
  • NYPD Commissioner and former Commissioner of U.S. Customs Service Raymond W. Kelly; and
  • U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.

DHS Secretary Nepolitano Meets With Jewish Community Leaders

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today met with New York Jewish community leaders from the UJA-Federation at the White House, to discuss a variety of topics including information sharing and underscoring the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) partnerships with faith-based communities to prevent, prepare for and respond to terrorist threats.

More after the jump.
Secretary Napolitano said:

DHS recognizes the important role the nonprofit community has in our homeland security efforts. We work closely with nonprofit organizations throughout the country- including the faith-based community — to share information, offer training, conduct risk assessments and provide resources to give the nonprofit sector the tools to address threats and help keep communities safe.

During the meeting, Secretary Napolitano highlighted the Department’s efforts to support faith-based communities through DHS grants and information sharing, including collaboration through the Faith Based Task Force under the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

In FY 2012, DHS sustained funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program despite significant overall cuts to grants in order to support target hardening and physical security enhancements at nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack. For the first time, FEMA also made nonprofit organizations eligible for Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Activities (LETPA) funding in the FY 2012 grant guidance. Through this funding, DHS encourages states, urban areas, and regions to work closely with the nonprofit community to address terrorism prevention concerns and the needs of the nonprofit sector.

Last year, Secretary Napolitano announced the expansion of the “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign to Jewish community by partnering with the Jewish Federations of North America and the Secure Community Network-a mechanism for information sharing with faith- and community-based organizations designed to quickly improve overall security awareness in a crisis situation.

The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign-originally implemented by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and now licensed to DHS for a nationwide campaign-is a simple and effective program to engage the public and key frontline employees to identify and report indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano Reaches Out to Jewish Community

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today met with Jewish community leaders from across the nation at the White House to underscore the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) commitment to partnering with faith-based communities to prevent, prepare for and respond to threats and announce the expansion of DHS’ “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Security Community Network (SCN).

More after the jump.
“Homeland security begins with hometown security, and our nation’s faith-based organizations play a critical role in keeping our communities safe,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Expanding the ‘If You See Something, Say Something™’ campaign to national Jewish groups, the first faith-based partnership for the campaign, is an important step in the Department’s ongoing effort to engage the American public in our nation’s security efforts.”
In the meeting, Secretary Napolitano joined White House Office of Public Engagement Director John Carson to highlight the vital role of faith-based leadership in providing guidance and assistance to their organizations and institutions regarding ways to protect against terrorism and other threats. The launch of the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America and SCN will feature print and social media materials distributed to the thousands of centers and organizations that the associations reach.

“The American Jewish community and the places we gather are, unfortunately, often targets for terrorists,” said Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America. “This new partnership with the Department of Homeland Security will empower us to counter this threat as we become more actively involved in our own protection.”

Secretary Napolitano also highlighted the Department’s continued efforts to strengthen collaboration with members of the Jewish community through platforms such as SCN-a mechanism for information sharing with faith- and community-based organizations designed to quickly improve overall security awareness in a crisis situation-and discussed ways to expand and enhance current initiatives and partnerships.

The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign-originally implemented by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and now licensed to DHS for a nationwide campaign-is a simple and effective program to engage the public and key frontline employees to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.

Partnerships with the “If You See Something, Say Something ™” campaign have recently been launched with the Indianapolis 500, Washington State Ferries, the City of Los Angeles, AEG Worldwide, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL), as well as in Colorado, Minnesota and New Jersey, more than 9,000 federal buildings nationwide, Walmart, Mall of America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the general aviation industry, and state and local fusion centers across the country. Secretary Napolitano also previously released an “If You See Something, Say Something ™” public awareness video, available here.

In the coming months, DHS will continue to expand the “If You See Something, Say Something ™” campaign nationally to help America’s business, communities and citizens remain vigilant and play an active role in keeping the country safe.