Supreme Court Deadlocks on Immigration, Leaving Millions in Limbo

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Supreme Court Deadlocks on Immigration, Leaving Millions in Limbo

4-4 tie on United States v. Texas sets no precedent, but leaves in place a previous ruling by a lower court that blocks order from going into effect

A crowd gathers outside the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the DAPA and DACA programs. (Photo: Bread for the World/flickr/cc)

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The U.S. Supreme Court has deadlocked on President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration.

The 4-4 tie on United States v. Texas (pdf) sets no precedent, but leaves in place a previous ruling by a lower court that blocks the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) order from going into effect, meaning five million undocumented immigrants are now at risk for deportation and being separated from their families.

In a press conference following the decision, Obama said, "This is a very clear reminder of why it's so important for the Supreme Court to have a full bench," castigating Republicans for refusing to meet with his Judge Merrick Garland, his nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director at the Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement Thursday, "Today, we mourn the Supreme Court deadlock on President Obama's executive order. The lack of a decision allows the politically motivated ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to stand. Millions of immigrant families have lived in limbo for the past 18 months and this decision prolongs their agony."

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"If the highest court in the land cannot find a majority for justice and compassion, there is something truly broken in our system of laws, checks and balances," she said.

The ACLU's Immigration Rights Project director Cecillia Wang added, "Today's non-decision in the DAPA case leaves the legal questions about the president’s immigration authority unanswered. But by leaving in place the injunction issued by the district judge, today’s 4-4 tie has a profound impact on millions of American families whose lives will remain in limbo, and who will now continue the fight.

"In setting the DAPA guidelines, President Obama exercised the same prosecutorial discretion his predecessors have wielded without controversy, and ultimately the courts should hold that the action was lawful," Wang said.

According to SCOTUSblog, there will be a later appeal, so the Obama immigration policy "will be revived if [Hillary] Clinton wins and a Democratic nominee provides the 5th vote."

Several cases have deadlocked since Scalia's death in February.

DAPA was an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which prevented the deportation of undocumented youths brought to the U.S. as children.

Texas led 26 Republican-controlled states in challenging the order, announced in November 2014. The previous ruling by a New Orleans federal appeals court stated that the Obama administration lacked the authority to shield the millions of immigrants from deportation and make them eligible for work permits without Congressional approval.

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