President Obama said most illegal immigrants still won’t be deported, even after the Supreme Court’s tie ruling Thursday upheld an injunction on his broader deportation amnesty.
Mr. Obama rushed to assure illegal immigrants with ties to the U.S. that they are “low priorities,” even though they will not be able to get the work permits and taxpayer benefits his “deferred action” program had promised.
And he said the 4-4 tie was more evidence for the need to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, his pick to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to the high court.
Speaking less than two hours after the court’s ruling, Mr. Obama said it “takes us further from the country we aspire to be,” and delays a solution to a broken system that has allowed an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants to arrive and settle here.
The president also challenged voters to punish those who want stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
“Now we’ve got a choice about who we’re going to be as a country, what we’re going to teach our kids, and how we want to be represented in Congress and the White House,” Mr. Obama said at the White House.
The 4-4 ruling leaves in place a lower court’s injunction that held the president broke immigration and procedural laws by claiming the power to grant “deferred action” to nearly half of the illegal immigrants in the country.
That deferred action program would have granted a three-year work permit, enabling illegal immigrants to get Social Security numbers and access to some taxpayer benefits. It also would have ensured them a three-year stay of deportation.
Without the program, however, Mr. Obama still retains the power to decide whom to deport. And he said the millions who would have qualified for deferred action aren’t likely to be kicked out anyway.
“They will remain low priorities for enforcement,” he said.
Thursday’s ruling also leaves untouched a smaller deportation amnesty Mr. Obama announced in 2012 that applies to so-called Dreamers, who are the young adult illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
More than 700,000 Dreamers have qualified for two-year stays of deportation and work permits under that program.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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