Thursday’s ruling came in the form of a one-sentence order. The justices are split 4-4 on United States v. Texas and the lower court ruling is upheld, which means President Obama’s immigration plan for expanded deferred action remains blocked.
In 2014 Obama gave an executive order that would have allowed millions of undocumented immigrants—the parents of children who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents—to apply for work permits and given them temporary stays of deportation. The order came after years of mobilization on the part of immigration activists and no small amount of political gridlock in Congress. It was swiftly challenged in the federal courts by 26 states, led by Texas.
The challenge is one based on executive authority: Does the president have the power to grant discretionary, case-by-case, and temporary relief from deportation? Precedent would indicate that yes, he does. As Brianne J. Gorod wrote for The New Republic, “The administration’s action is lawful because Congress has consistently and repeatedly conferred substantial discretion on the executive branch to determine how best to implement the nation’s immigration laws.”
The split decision is an enormous blow for the nearly five million undocumented people who could have immediately benefited from expanded deferred action. Hillary Clinton has already released a statement, pledging, “We should be doing everything possible under the law to provide [undocumented immigrants] relief from the specter of deportation.” This already was a big election issue, and it just got bigger.