The President Barack Obama administration received big defeat from the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, splitting vote 4-4 over his plan to spare millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation and give them work permits, leaving intact a lower-court ruling blocking the plan.
The court, with four conservative justices and four liberals, appeared to view the case along ideological lines during oral arguments on April 18 brought by 26 states led by Texas that sued to block Obama’s 2014 executive action on immigration that bypassed Congress.
The 4-4 ruling was possible because there aresible because there are only eight justices following February’s death of conservative Antonin Scalia. The states argued that Obama overstepped the powers granted to him by the U.S. Constitution by infringing upon the authority of Congress.
Republican U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said the ruling “makes the president’s executive action on immigration null and void.” Ryan described the decision as a “major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers.” The Constitution assigns certain powers to the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.
Obama’s plan was tailored to let roughly 4 million people – those who have lived illegally in the United States at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents – get into a program that shields them from deportation and supplies work permits.
This was not the first time that the Supreme Court determined the fate of an important Obama administration initiative. The justices in 2012 and 2015 issued high-profile rulings preserving his signature healthcare law that Republicans have long fought.
The case was viewed as an important test of the limits of presidential powers and came just few months to the end of the Obama presidency.