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Supreme Court Deadlocked on Federal Immigration Plan, Leaving Millions to Fear Deportation

Tina Vasquez

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling blocking President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action on immigration remains in place.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court announced it was split over United States v. Texas, the lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action on immigration. As a result, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling blocking the effort to extend relief from fear of deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants remains in place.

Obama’s executive action would have expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, enabling eligible undocumented immigrants to receive a three-year work permit, and created Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). DAPA would have provided undocumented parents with U.S. citizenship or legal permanent resident children meeting certain requirements a renewable work permit and exemption from deportation for two years.

As Rewire previously reported, the Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the case in November following a ruling from the Fifth Circuit. In that decision, the court agreed with a lower court Texas judge who halted the expansion of DACA and the implementation of DAPA.

According to a report from the Migration Policy Institute and the Urban Institute, 3.6 million undocumented immigrants would have benefited from DAPA.

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Advocacy organizations like are calling the Supreme Court ruling a “devastating loss” for undocumented immigrants. We Belong Together, a campaign by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum intended to mobilize women in support of immigration policies, released a statement asserting that the Supreme Court decision “not only creates legal confusion but forces immigrant communities to continue living in fear of their families being ripped apart.”

Ana Canenguez, a DAPA-eligible, Utah-based member of We Belong Together, said in a statement that after fleeing violence in her home country and living in the United States for almost ten years, she and her five children will continue living with the fear of being deported and having their family separated.

“But the fight is not over,” Canenguez said in the statement. “Undocumented women like me will keep organizing until our children can go to sleep without worrying that we will be taken away from them during the night. We will keep organizing to protect all of our families.”

Immigrant rights organizations say an often overlooked aspect of the injunction on DAPA is the effect it has on the U.S. citizen children of the millions of undocumented parents being denied relief from deportation. First Focus, one of the few child advocacy organizations focused on immigration in the United States, explained in a statement that the well-being of more than 5 million children is at stake, 4.1 million of whom are U.S. citizens. These children “remain at risk of losing a parent to deportation and will continue to suffer harm to their mental and physical health, economic security, and academic performance,” according to the organization.

The Obama administration can petition the Supreme Court to re-hear the case next term, but it is unclear if the administration will pursue that action.

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