WASHINGTON (KXAN/AP) — The Supreme Court is blocking President Barack Obama’s immigration plan that could affect up to five million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
The 4-4 tie vote sets no national precedent but leaves in place the ruling by the lower court, which determined the Obama administration lacked the authority to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The justices’ one-sentence opinion on Thursday effectively kills the plan for the duration of Obama’s presidency.
One of the programs at stake is the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) policy. This allows parents who have United States-born children a chance to stay in the country. Also at stake: the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows people brought to the country illegally as children, an opportunity to stay.
Texas, which refused to implement DAPA, was one of 26 Republican-dominated states that challenged the program which Obama announced in 2014.
“Tragically, this decision endangers the lives of so many. It’s time for Republicans to stop trying to score political points by tearing families apart,” said the Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “It’s time for Republicans to join a broad coalition of Democrats, the business community, faith leaders, and families working towards comprehensive immigration solutions.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called this decision a victory for the state. “Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: one person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law,” said Paxton in a statement. “This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law.”
“The Supreme Court has failed to provide a solution for people living in the shadows. The Court’s decision means that as many as five million immigrants in the U.S. remain in constant fear of being separated from their families at any time, and possibly deported. Workers Defense and our families will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform despite this decision,” said the executive director of the Workers Defense Project, Jose P. Garza.
Earlier this year, the possibility of a tie vote was apparent after the justices heard oral arguments on the case.
Conservative-leaning Justices John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, and – presumably – Clarance Thomas were disquieted by the president enacting significant changes to the country’s immigration system without the consent of Congress, and appeared satisfied that Texas was justified in bringing its lawsuit.
On the other side, left-leaners Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan lobbed landmines at Texas’ argument that DAPA financially damages the state, and warned that allowing such cases could open all federal programs to a flood of legal attacks by GOP-led states.
Impact on Texas
According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are 1.17 million undocumented people who have called Texas home for five years. Approximately 40 percent of those individuals have children that are U.S. citizens. Those children are eligible to stay because they were born here and are protected.
DAPA allowed the parents of those children to stay if they lived here for five years, went through a background check and paid fines.