Supreme Court deadlock halts Obama immigration actions

Families organized by Casa Latina rallied in front of the federal building in Seattle on Monday. (Photo by Venice Buhain.)
Families organized by Casa Latina rallied in front of the federal building in Seattle to show support for Obama’s immigration actions earlier this year. (Photo by Venice Buhain.)

The Supreme Court announced a 4-4 tie Thursday on the challenge to President Barack Obama’s deferred action programs. The tie continues the hold on the programs that would have potentially shielded millions of undocumented immigrant parents and children from deportation.

According to Vox, up to 4.5 million people would have benefited from the programs and the news website reported that immigration activists indicated they may file suit in another part of the country to put the actions in effect.

In 2012, the president started the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, which applies to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Two years later, Obama had issued a memo expanding DACA and starting another program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, known as DAPA, which applies to undocumented immigrants with minor children who are citizens or permanent residents.

The programs temporarily shield undocumented immigrants who pass a background check and would give successful applicants a Social Security number and permission to work.

Immigration advocates said that the deferred action programs gave families “a glimmer of hope,” though they pointed out that the programs fell short of a path of a green card.

Marcos Martinez, executive director of Seattle-based Casa Latina, said the ruling was disappointing for immigrant families and their advocates.

“We need to re-energize ourselves and continue the fight for immigration reform,” he said.

Martinez pointed out that the decision does not affect the original 2012 DACA program, and that immigrants who are undocumented may have other programs to ease their situations.

“As we have talked about this issue in groups, we find that there are people still eligible for various kinds of immigration relief,” Martinez said.

However, he said that some eligible for DACA or other programs have avoided applying out of fear of bringing attention to other members of their families and from uncertainty about who will win the presidential race this year.

Martinez said he hopes Obama continues to w

“We hope he will stop deporting people and take a more progressive approach in the immigration area,” he said.

Obama’s 2014 actions were halted when Texas and 25 other states challenged Obama’s 2014 executive action, arguing that the president has overstepped his authority, and the action was suspended by the fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 2012 DACA program, for the children of undocumented immigrants, remains unaffected.

Washington was among 16 states that made arguments to the court supporting the president’s action.

SCOTUSBlog covered the hearing in April, and noted that the justices’ lines of questioning seemed to indicate a 4-4 split.


Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued the following statement:

“This is a deeply disappointing decision for immigrant families, and a missed opportunity to build stronger communities where no one is forced to live in the shadows.”

OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz stated in part:

“The Supreme Court’s decision to allow an injunction to stand against President Obama’s executive actions on immigration is a blow to more than 5 million hardworking American families who will remain in constant fear of having their families split apart.

“Our community has the strength and resilience to continue to fight for our rights. We’ll continue to fight for immigration reform an and end to unjust deportations. We’ll make sure our community has a voice this year by holding naturalization workshops, community forums and voter registration drives. We won’t give up until the promise of America – of freedom, dignity and respect – holds true for all Americans.”

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) issued a statement following the ruling:

“Today’s 4-4 split decision is a deeply painful reminder of the cost of our broken immigration system on families, children and communities across the country,” DelBene said. “President Obama took reasonable steps within his authority to provide temporary relief to the families being torn apart by our current system. I’m disappointed a definitive decision wasn’t made because Senate Republicans have left the Court short one justice.

“I will not stop fighting until Democrats and Republicans come together and work on a comprehensive solution that reduces visa backlogs, creates an earned pathway to citizenship and keeps families together.”

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) released the following statement:

“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling today resulting in a deadlock decision on the President’s Executive Actions on Immigration. Millions of U.S. citizens with undocumented parents and DREAMers will now face uncertainty in their future and may see their families torn apart. Failure on the part of Republican leadership is what forced the President to act. I call on Congress to take action and pass a permanent comprehensive immigration bill and fix our broken system. We cannot afford to wait any longer to reform our immigration system and bring relief to millions of children and families.”

The Globalist has updated this story with reactions. We will continue to update this story as it develops.

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