Local advocates said they are outraged after the Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's immigration program.
The court was deadlocked in a 4-4 tie on the case that challenged President Obama’s executive action in 2014.
“38,000 people in Tennessee were hoping this month they would be able to apply for work authorization,” said Eben Cathey, Director of Advocacy at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “They thought they would have an opportunity to stay here and not have to live in fear.”
Under President Obama’s plan, adults in the United States illegally could remain if they meet certain residency requirements and have children who are American citizens or lawful permanent residents.
It would also expand another program, now in effect, that allows young people to stay in the country if they were brought here under age 16. Now those programs will not move forward.
A lawsuit filed by Tennessee and 25 other states claimed President Obama did not have the authority to go around Congress.
The tie vote meant justices were unable to announce a ruling, and now lower court rulings against enforcing the plan remain.
It is estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are living the U.S.
Martha Lugo is an undocumented immigrant who has lived in Nashville for 13 years. She has two daughters who are U.S. citizens. She said she would have been able to directly benefit from the program, find a job, and better her life.
“It is very difficult to go back to the fear if I get stopped or pulled over, I could face the risk of deportation,” said Lugo. “It took us by surprise to hear the decision. This will make us stronger than ever. We will keep fighting.”
“We’ve been working toward reforming immigration policy for many years,” added Cathey. “This is a bump in the road. We will keep fighting and our immigrant community will keep fighting, as well.”
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III released a statement regarding the decision:
“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision is a welcome result. With the Court affirming the lower court, we finally have a decision placing limits on executive authority and confining its role to enforcing, and not making, our laws. The original complaint in this action said it best, “this lawsuit is not about immigration. It is about the rule of law, presidential power, and the structural limits of the U.S. Constitution.” Everyone is frustrated over immigration, regardless of viewpoint. Congress needs to resolve this issue and has done virtually nothing. But with that said, the President does not have the authority to change the law, whether by directive, executive order, a letter, or the like. That role is reserved for Congress. Otherwise the people do not have a voice or an opportunity to influence policy. Today’s decision confirms that.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn also issued a statement praising the decision:
“For years I have fought to pass legislation to end the DACA program. This is a win for the Constitution and for the American people. President Obama’s use of a pen and phone to rewrite immigration laws from the oval office to implement executive amnesty was lawless from day one. SCOTUS has sent King Obama a powerful message.”
Senator Lamar Alexander released this statement later Thursday afternoon.
"In April, I joined 42 other senators asking the Supreme Court to block President Obama’s overreach on immigration, so I’m glad to see that the lower court’s decision will stand. It’s up to Congress to make the laws and address our broken immigration system. Our Founders did not want a king and the American people do not want a president who acts like one.”