With the absence of the deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s entering into a whole lot of deadlock. Most of the current term’s cases will drop by Monday (although the court may add days to its calendar), and some big ones are rolling out today. And somehow, the most significant immigration case in decades was shut down in a 4-4 deadlock with a mere one sentence ruling: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.” Those few words — with no further elaboration — have potentially decided the fates of up to 4 million undocumented immigrants.
The case, United States v. Texas, revolves around President Obama’s 2014 executive action on immigration. This was a bold, controversial move to be certain. Obama moved to protect certain unauthorized immigrants (these include parents of children who are legal residents and spouses of legal residents) though a “deferred action,” which would allow them to avoid deportation and obtain work authorization. The court’s deadlock will leave the appeals court ruling — which blocks Obama’s plan — in place.
Well, Obama issued a statement to condemn the Supreme Court’s decision. He points a finger at the Republicans’ refusal to consider Merrick Garland as his Supreme Court nominee. Obama notes that no more action on this issue can be taken until a ninth justice is confirmed. He also hints at his perception of being “challenged for taking the kinds of actions that other administrations have taken” and expresses disappointment:
“Today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality into our immigration system — and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them. I think it is heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who’ve made their lives here; who’ve raised families here; who’ve hoped for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military, and more fully contribute to this country we all love in an open way.
“It is my firm belief that immigration is not something to fear. We don’t have to wall ourselves off from those who may not look like us right now or pray like we do or have a different last name because being an American is about something more than that.”
Even as Obama shades Donald Trump’s Wall, the effect of this ruling does the same to his use of executive orders. Obama has grown particularly fond of using this method while encountering a frequently uncooperative Congress who — even when it comes to vital issues — has to resort to a filibuster and a sit-in to try and force its own action. But it seems that the Supreme Court has sent a clear message to the president on this executive order.
Indeed, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement to celebrate the ruling: “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.” Here’s a video of Obama’s response to the SCOTUS ruling.