Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Obama immigration plan blocked - Supreme Court vote ends in deadlock

Published:Friday | June 24, 2016 | 6:00 AM
United States President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the White House briefing room in Washington, yesterday, on the Supreme Court decision on immigration. A tie vote is blocking Obama's immigration plan.

WASHINGTON (AP):

The Supreme Court deadlocked yesterday on President Barack Obama's immigration plan that sought to shield millions living in the United States (US) illegally from deportation and granted them work permits, effectively killing the plan for the rest of his presidency.

The outcome underscores that the direction of US immigration policy will be determined in large part by this fall's presidential election, a campaign in which immigration already has played an outsized role.

People who would have benefited from Obama's plan face no imminent threat of deportation because Congress has provided money to deal with only a small percentage of people who live in the country illegally, and the president retains ample discretion to decide whom to deport. But Obama's effort to expand that protection to many others is effectively stymied.

Obama said Thursday's impasse "takes us further from the country we aspire to be". He is reassuring millions of people that they do not need to fear immediate deportation.

But Obama says the opinion does not change his administration's enforcement priorities.

Obama says his administration will continue to focus its limited enforcement resources on people who have committed a crime, and that deportation for long-term immigrants who are not criminals will remain a low priority.

 

FRUSTRATING DECISION

 

Still, Obama says the deadlock is frustrating for immigrants who want to work and contribute to the economy. He says it is "heartbreaking" for them.

The 4-4 tie vote sets no national precedent, but leaves in place the ruling by the lower court. The justices issued a one-sentence opinion, with no further comment.

A nine-justice court agreed to hear the case in January, but by the time of the arguments in late April, Justice Antonin Scalia had died. That left eight justices to decide the case, and the court presumably split along liberal and conservative lines, although the court did not say how each justice voted.

In this case, the federal appeals court in New Orleans said the Obama administration lacked the authority to shield up to four million immigrants from deportation and make them eligible for work permits without approval from Congress.

Texas led 26 Republican-dominated states in challenging the programme Obama announced in November 2014. Congressional Republicans also backed the states' lawsuit.

The Obama administration announced the programmes - protections for parents of children who are in the country legally and an expansion of the programme that benefits people who were brought to the country as children - in November 2014. Obama decided to move forward after Republicans won control of the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections, and the chances for an immigration overhaul, already remote, were further diminished.

The Senate had passed a broad immigration bill with Democratic and Republican support in 2013, but the measure went nowhere in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.