WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A tie vote by the Supreme Court will block President Barack Obama’s immigration plan that sought to shield millions living in the U.S. illegally from deportation. The one-sentence opinion Thursday effectively kills the plan for the duration of Obama’s presidency.
A tie vote sets no national precedent, but leaves in place the ruling by the lower court. In this case, the federal appeals court in New Orleans said that the Obama administration lacked the authority to shield up to 4 million immigrants from deportation and make them eligible for work permits without approval from Congress.
Texas led 26 Republican-dominated states in challenging the program that the President announced back in November 2014. Congressional Republicans also backed the lawsuit.
After the ruling, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton released a statement which said, “Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: one person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law. 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 Obama administration announced the programs — protections for parents of children who are in the country legally and an expansion of the program that benefits people who were brought to this country as children — in November 2014. Obama decided to move forward after Republicans won control of the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections, however, the chances for an immigration overhaul, already remote, were further diminished.
The Senate had already passed a broad immigration bill with Democratic and Republican support in 2013. The measure went nowhere in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The states quickly went to court to block the Obama initiatives.
“By going around Congress to grant legal status to millions of people here illegally,” added Sen. John Cornyn from Texas, “the President abused the power of his office and ignored the will of the American people. The President can’t circumvent the legislative process simply because he doesn’t get what he wants, and I’m glad the Rule of Law was affirmed.”
Their case was heard by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville. Hanen previously had criticized the administration for lax immigration enforcement. Hanen sided with the states, blocking the programs from taking effect. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled for the states. The Justice Department rushed an appeal to the high court so that it could be heard this term.
“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 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday. “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.”
But the chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus had the opposite reaction. “I am extremely disappointed the U.S. Supreme Court did not uphold President Obama’s order granting prosecutorial discretion for the undocumented parents of U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents,” said Sen. Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas. “In Texas, undocumented youth paid $51.6 million in tuition and fees in 2013 and paid an estimated $1.6 billion in state and local taxes. In 2011, immigrants of all status contributed $65 billion in economic output to the state in terms of wages, salary and business earnings. But even worse, tearing families apart will continue to cast a shadow of fear over hard working immigrant workers and encourage their exploitation.”
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