Supreme court tie vote blocks temporary plan to stop deportations

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — With a tie vote June 23, the U.S. Supreme
Court blocked the Obama administration’s plan to temporarily protect more than
4 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation.

The court’s
4-4 vote leaves in place a lower court injunction blocking the administration’s immigration policy with the one-page opinion stating: “The
judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.”

Legal experts
have called it an ambiguous and confusing political and legal decision that
leaves many in a state of limbo. It also puts a lot of attention on the vacant
Supreme Court seat that may determine how the case is decided in an appeal.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of
Las Cruces, New Mexico, said the court’s decision is “a sad ruling.” He
described the president’s immigration plan as “the result of years of
painstaking work and committed efforts by migrant advocates, grassroots
organizations, some legislators and the faith community.”

The bishop, chairman of
the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, added that the
court’s decision exposes how current immigration policy in the U.S.
“criminalizes and scapegoats immigrants who fight for a better life for their
children and families that contribute every day to our economy and

In a news
briefing, President Barack Obama said the country’s immigration system is
broken and the Supreme Court’s inability to reach a decision set it back
even further.

At issue in
the United States v. Texas case are Obama’s executive actions on immigration
policy that were challenged by 26 states.

“I am
deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision … putting millions of
families at risk of being ripped apart,” said Dominican Sister Bernardine
Karge of Chicago, speaking for the Washington-based group Faith in Public Life.

stories of immigrant families are intimately woven into the tapestry of this
great country, and today’s decision threatens our nation’s commitment to
justice and compassion,” she said, adding that she hoped the presumptive presidential nominees and Congress
makes comprehensive immigration reform a priority.

The case, argued
before the court in April, involved Obama’s 2014 expansion of a 2012 program
known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and creation of the
Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known
as DAPA.

The programs had been put on hold last November by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in New Orleans, upholding a Texas-based federal judge’s injunction
against the executive actions.

The states
suing the federal government claimed the president went too far and was not
just putting a temporary block on deportations, but giving immigrants in the
country without legal permission a “lawful presence” that enabled
them to qualify for Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who defended the government, said the
“pressing human concern” was to avoid breaking up families of U.S.
citizen children, something echoed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC, and at least three Catholic
colleges, which joined in a brief with more than 75 education and children’s
advocacy organizations.

When the case was argued before the high court in mid-April, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stressed that the 4 million immigrants who
might be given a temporary reprieve from deportation “are living in the
shadows” and “are here whether we want them or not,” adding that
the government had limited resources available for deportations.

Thomas Saenz,
a lawyer representing three mothers in in the country without documentation who have U.S. citizen children, told
the court his clients live in “daily fear that they will be separated from
their families and detained or removed from their homes.”

On the day
the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, the plight of families was
visible with many gathered in front of the court
hours before the arguments began carrying placards saying: “Fight for
families,” and “Love your neighbor” while a mariachi band played
alongside them.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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