Several California immigrants' rights groups said Thursday they were disappointed but not defeated by the Supreme Court's action in blocking President Barack Obama's plan to protect several million unauthorized immigrants from deportation.
The high court announced in a one-sentence ruling Thursday that it was "equally divided" by a 4-4 vote and that it thus affirmed a lower court's preliminary injunction blocking the plan.
The preliminary injunction was issued by a federal trial judge in Texas in 2015 in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other states. It was later upheld by a 2-1 vote of a federal appeals court in New Orleans. The U.S. Justice Department then appealed to the high court.
Because the Supreme Court, short one member following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, was deadlocked, the appeals court ruling is the final decision in the case.
Santa Clara County officials expressed disappointment in the high court's decision and concern about the impact on approximately 142,000 immigrants in county in a statement.
"At the end of the day, the Court decided to keep our immigrant community in the dark and in the shadows," Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese said in a statement. "Here in Santa Clara County, however, we will continue to invest in them and make them an integral part of our community.
No matter what happens in Washington, our County remains committed to supporting all of our families - regardless of their immigration status or country of origin," he wrote.
Maria Love, manager of the County of Santa Clara Office of Immigrant Relations, echoed Cortese's sentiments and said the ruling "will not discourage our community of immigrants from pushing forward to achieve immigration reform that will provide dignity to all communities and families."
San Francisco-based ASPIRE, an advocacy group for undocumented Asian and Pacific Islander youth, called the ruling "a major setback."
But spokesman David Xia-Zhu also said, "We will continue fighting for solutions to protect our community members who are excluded from any kind of relief."
Daniel Zingale of the Los Angeles-based California Endowment said the ruling "prolongs the wait for millions of undocumented individuals to obtain relief from deportation," but added, "We are hopeful that (Thursday's) split decision will ultimately result in health justice for all."
The California Endowment advocates health insurance for undocumented immigrants.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, said her message to hard-working immigrant families is that "We will keep fighting to keep your families together by reforming our broken immigration system."
President Obama called the ruling "heartbreaking" and urged the Senate to confirm his Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said the high court action was a vindication of the U.S. Constitution "and another major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers."
The preliminary injunction blocked two programs established by Obama through executive actions.
One action would expand an existing program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which postpones deportation for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S.as children.
The existing DACA program was not blocked and will remain in effect.
The other program is known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, and would provide deportation protections for an estimated several million people who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and are parents of citizens or legal residents.
University of San Francisco law professor Bill Hing said the case isn't necessarily over. He said the case should now go back to the trial court in Texas for a full trial and the outcome can then be appealed to the federal circuit court and the U.S. Supreme Court, which may then have a full panel of nine justices.
"A year from now is when the substantive decision will be made," Hing predicted.
The case would end, however, if a future president canceled the executive actions, which presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has vowed to do, Hing noted.
Expected Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said Thursday that if elected, she will continue to defend the two programs "and do everything possible under the law to go further to protect families."
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