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US Supreme Court deadlocks on immigration

June 23, 2016

The US Supreme Court is in deadlock over President Obama's immigration plan. Obama took the opportunity to criticize the Republican-led Senate for failing to act over his nominee for the Court.

USA Oberster Gerichtshof mit Flagge auf Halbmast in Washington
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/M. Reynolds

The US Supreme Court all but ended its spring term on Thursday knotting-up immigration reform, while upholding affirmative action at universities.

President Barack Obama's executive order would have created a path to citizenship for 4 million of the 11 million immigrants living in the US illegally. But 26 states, all led by Republican governors, took the administration to court to try and block Obama's order.

Lower courts sided with the states, but the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4, issuing a one sentence statement saying, "The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court."

Presidential nominee

The nine-member court has been shorthanded since February when the archconservative Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.

Even though President Barack Obama has put forth a replacement nominee, who by all accounts is a political centrist, the Republican-controlled Senate has taken the unprecedented step of refusing to even meet the candidate, never mind give him a hearing.

Obama seized on the deadlocked court to criticize the Republican-led Senate for refusing to act on his nominee.

"Today the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision," Obama said during a press conference." This is a direct consequence of the Senate's failure to act on my Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland."

President Obama speaks from behind a podium as a press briefing inside the White House.
President Obama slams Senate inaction over SC nomineeImage: Reuters/C. Barria

None of the millions of immigrants affected by today's ruling are likely to face deportation, but their prospects for gaining citizenship have been put on hold.

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive democratic nominee for the presidency, seized on the result of a divided court to say how important November's election will be.

"Today's deadlocked decision from the Supreme Court is unacceptable, and shows us all just how high the stakes are in this election," Clinton said in a statement.

The tie vote does not set a legal precedent but merely holds in place a lower court ruling.

University action program

Separately, the court upheld an appeals court ruling that reaffirmed a university's right to maintain an affirmative action program to boost enrollment of minority students. The Supreme Court's 4-3 decision was written by the moderately conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Clinton praised the court for its ruling, calling it "a win for all Americans."

Kennedy wrote that "considerable deference" is owed to universities when they are seeking to determine student diversity. He said that "it remains an enduring challenge to our nation's education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity."

The lawsuit was filed by a student who argued that she was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin because she's white.

bik/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)