WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Supreme Court has
failed to reach a decision in President Barack Obama’s most prominent effort to
reform immigration policy, which would have provided a path to gaining legal
status for up to 4.5 million immigrants and protect them from deportation.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court
judges deadlocked 4-4 in the United States v. Texas case, meaning the ruling by
the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals preventing the President’s "deferred action" programs from going into effect stands.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement
following the Supreme Court's executive amnesty ruling, praising the Court for
upholding the constitution and blocking the President’s “unauthorized abuse of
“The action taken by the President was an unauthorized
abuse of presidential power that trampled the Constitution, and the Supreme
Court rightly denied the President the ability to grant amnesty contrary to
immigration laws," said Governor Abbott. "As the President
himself said, he is not a king who can unilaterally change and write
immigration laws. Today's ruling is also a victory for all law-abiding
Americans—including the millions of immigrants who came to
America following the rule of law."
FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon also offered a statement
on the ruling, which he characterized as “a great victory.”
“This is a great victory for the Constitution,”
Brandon said. “There are three branches of government, and each of them was
intended to have equal power. There is no special clause that grants a
president power when he can’t get his way. While today’s ruling is welcome
news, Congress still has a long way to go before it restores the constitutional
separation of powers and ends the imperial presidency.”
One of the deferred action programs is an
expansion of a program Obama put into place in 2012 called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing young undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children
(and meet other requirements) to get temporary protection
from deportation and obtain work permits.
According to reports, about 700,000 of the 1.2
million eligible immigrants have applied for and received protection.
The other program provides relief for parents of
legal residents of the U.S. The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)
program would have allowed millions of undocumented immigrants who have children
who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents to also apply for deportation protection
and work permits.
The two programs are referred
to as DAPA/DACA+.
After the programs were
announced, 23 states, Texas included, filed a lawsuit to prevent the government from
implementing the programs.
The original DACA program was
not challenged in the lawsuit.
In February 2015, Judge
Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas issued an injunction, preventing the government from advancing
the programs based on the grounds that the states were likely to
prevail on some of their claims.
The injunction was upheld
by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and in January, the Supreme Court agreed
to hear the case.
This particular case differs
from other cases where the Court deadlocked since the death of Justice Antonin
Scalia in February, in that it cannot simply be re-addressed when the 9th
justice seat is filled. With just 6 months left before the end of his presidency,
Obama will not be in office – leaving the future of immigration policy in the
hands of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump or presumptive Democratic
nominee Hillary Clinton.
The decision undoubtedly
comes as a blow to the President, who encouraged undocumented immigrants to
come out of the shadows. Some predict that those individuals are now more
vulnerable than they were when Obama took office.