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With High Court Evenly Split, Obama's Immigration Actions Remain On Hold

President Obama speaks in the White House briefing on Thursday following the Supreme Court decision on immigration.
Andrew Harnik AP
President Obama speaks in the White House briefing on Thursday following the Supreme Court decision on immigration.

The Supreme Court finished deadlocked when it considered whether President Obama had the authority to shield millions of immigrants from deportation.

The 4-4 tie — delivered in a single sentence by the Court — deals a major blow to the president and leaves in place a lower court ruling that put his plan on hold.

With High Court Evenly Split, Obama’s Immigration Actions Remain On Hold
With High Court Evenly Split, Obama's Immigration Actions Remain On Hold GUESTS: Lilia Velasquez, immigration attorney Lucero Maganda, recipient, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program

President Obama said that immigrants living illegally don't need to fear immediate deportation because of today's Supreme Court ruling. Still he says the deadlock is frustrating. I think it is heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who made their lives here, who raised families here who hoped for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military and more fully contribute to this country. In an open way. Lilia Velasquez and welcome back. If DACA had been able to go into effect, can you remind us what it would have done? What it would have done is legalize -- and I have to be careful using legalization -- it would have been provided them with the same work permit as the DACA recipients. They would not be deported and additionally they would be entitled to a work permit to remain here to work lawfully, to enter the workforce legitimately. It would've taken people people out of the shadows. And you are talking about the parents of people who are here legally or who have legal residency in the United States. That is correct. It only covers parents who have US citizen children or children or even if they are over 21 that are legal permanent residents. It does not apply to parents who only have children who are DACA recipients. I see. Do we know how many people it might apply to here in San Diego? We know that there are millions across the country. I don't really know the statistics for San Diego but nationwide you would expect it would benefit about 5 million parents. Advocate is not 100,000 here in San Diego County and Imperial County. Why did supporters say a program like this was needed? Because the Congress for years has been unable to reach a compromise on comprehensive immigration reform. And everybody criticizes Obama saying listen, you have to wait, you need to be patient. It is Congress job to decide benefits for immigrants. This is why we have the separation of powers. And in response Obama said listen, Holland we have to wait? Congress is not even made a decision closely resembling legalizes the millions of people you have the us. And when I heard it this morning, it was the only choice left. I have to act. Let me go to another guest who is in our studio know. She is 22 years old, a recipient of the original deferred action for childhood arrivals program, DACA, which is not impacted by today's outcome. But your parents were eligible for DACA, and now you know it's not going into effect, how does that affect your family? Good morning. Definitely it was a disappointment to hear about the decision this morning. We were hoping for a different outcome. My mom is currently working, but she will not be able to leave the job that she has two reach for better employment as I have being a DACA recipient. It's definitely really disappointing. Were you coaching on was her family counting on this? Yes, we were. I have a sibling who is also a DACA recipients our family is split. We have a citizen sister who doesn't really have a play in this, but it would be our mom who needs this type of security. What has a bit like for your family? For your mom? Living here as people say it illegally and living in the shadows? It is definitely hard because she has to take the job that pays the least, that is the most demanding physically, and she works the night shift. So she is a janitor. And it is definitely not something that I want for my mom. It is not a secure job. It doesn't provide her safety and it doesn't help us out very much. It pays very little for the amount of work that she is doing. It definitely would have been something that we wanted her to not continue with. How much do you fear her deportation? It is a very strong fear. She has been here for more than 10 years. We were raised here. And even though we weren't born here, we have grown to be part of the community. We give back. Me and my mom pay taxes. My brother just started working. And it seems unfair that we have given so much to the community and we still can't be fully integrated. What are you advising your clients to do now? What I am telling the parents who have been calling me for months is that they should not be concerned about deportation like Lucero's mom. Obama made a very clear that the enforcement priorities remain intact. What does that mean? That we have high-priority cases and low priority cases. Where only going after the high-priority cases. Criminals, the bad people. Therefore Lucero's mom who is law-abiding, if she is encountered by the immigration service, I almost would say 99% that she would be let go. That she would not be placed and this is very important. People are fearing a massive deportation of people. Even the dreamers, the people that have the Mac, we don't know what is going to happen when Obama leaves office with the existing DACA we have. I have to wrap it up there. I've been speaking with attorney and Lucero. Thank you very much. Coming up we will hear how the periscope app--- heighten the profile of the Democrats congressional Singh. It is 1220 and you are linking -- listening to KPBS Midday Edition.

If you remember, back in 2014, President Obama announced that he was expanding his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which stopped the deportation of "dreamers," or young people who were brought into the country illegally by their parents.


DACA, which was not under scrutiny here, shielded some 1.1 million immigrants from deportation, while the expansion of that program and the creation of another — called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) — would have shielded some 4 million others.

Back in November, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that put DAPA and the expansion on DACA on hold, while the government awaited a trial. The government appealed that decision to Supreme Court and the eight justices could not form a majority.

The deadlock leaves the big legal questions at the center of case — whether states have standing to sue the administration over this issue and whether Obama has the constitutional authority to enact those programs — unresolved.

The deadlock also means the decision of the 5th Circuit stands and with little time left in Obama's term this could essentially be the last judicial fight over his executive actions on immigration.

Immigration advocates reacted with disappointment.


In a statement, Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said Obama needed to announce a new plan immediately.

Katie Park NPR

"It will be fully unacceptable for the President to use this decision as an excuse for inaction in cleaning up the mess created by his brutal deportation policy," Alvarado said.

Reporting from San Marcos, Texas, NPR's John Burnett talked to Karina, who has been in the United States for 15 years and is the mother of four U.S. citizen children.

She heard the news on CNN in the hotel breakfast area where she works.

"It's very sad because we wanted to do many things with the hope that we could travel legally without fear, find better work, get drivers licenses," she said. "When I saw the bad news, I didn't want to believe it, I didn't want to believe this was the court's definitive decision."

In a short televised statement, Republican Speaker Paul Ryan hailed the decision saying it affirms the country's separation of powers.

"Congress not our president writes our law," Ryan said.

In his own statement, President Obama shrugged off Ryan, saying the deadlock lets the status quo stand. The 4-4 decision, Obama said, "wasn't any value statement or a decision on the merits on these issues.

Ultimately, Obama added, it is now up to the American voters to decide how to proceed on immigration.

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