Undocumented Immigrants Face Uncertain Future After Supreme Court’s Tie Vote

On Thursday, the Supreme Court announced a deadlock in the case United States v. Texas, which challenged President Barack Obama’s deferred immigration initiatives. With a 4-4 vote, the court failed to reach a decision in a case that affects millions of immigrants across the country.

Many immigration advocates were disappointed with the outcome of the case and criticized Republicans for challenging the initiatives, which would have expanded rights for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) would have allowed undocumented parents to remain in the country with their American-born children, while expansions to Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative would have allowed students who graduated from U.S. high schools the ability to attend college here without the fear of being deported.

The nine-word decision issued by the Supreme Court — stating, “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court” — impacts nearly 4.5 million undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S. Following the court’s announcement, these people face deportation as the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision — blocking DAPA and expanded DACA from taking effect — stands.

The outcome also means that immigrants are not able to apply for protection from deportation, and it affects their ability to work legally in the U.S.

The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) released a statement following the announcement, affirming the importance of allowing immigrants access to higher education.

“We are a nation founded by immigrants, and higher education allows each of us to pursue a better life,” the statement reads. “This is not a political issue — it is a human rights issue affecting individuals with hopes and dreams of getting an education, raising a family, and … working legally in this country.”

Obama and other advocates of the initiatives have blamed the tie vote on Republicans’ unwillingness to hold hearings on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, a spot that was previously filled by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

In its statement, NADOHE expressed frustration over the lack of movement on the issue of immigration and called for collaboration in implementing fair policies.

“NADOHE supports fair and just immigration policies that uphold the educational and human rights of diverse immigrant communities,” it reads. “We send our support to the students and their families, and we urge Washington to end the deadlock and work toward comprehensive immigration reform.”