In a 15-minute statement at the White House Wednesday, a frustrated President Obama responded to the Supreme Court’s deadlocked ruling on his administration’s plan to reform immigration.
The highest court in the land tied, four-to-four, to block Obama’s plan for deferred action for undocumented parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents (dubbed DAPA), which would protect millions of illegal immigrants living and working in the United States from deportation.
DAPA was also a key legacy component to the Obama presidency:
“[F]or more than two decades now our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.”
The Supreme Court is acting with eight members, since the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia more than three months ago. Without a ninth member on the bench, the outcome was tied:
The SCOTUS immigration ruling pic.twitter.com/AOTzZDqmwW
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) June 23, 2016
The president could not hide the crushing disappointment of the Court’s decision:
“We prioritize criminals. We prioritize gang bangers. We prioritize folks who have just come in. What we don’t do is prioritize people who have been here a long time who are otherwise law-abiding, who have roots and connections in their communities. And so—those enforcement policies will continue.”
During his remarks today, Obama also took the opportunity to chastise Republicans in Congress for not allowing his nominee for Scalia’s seat, Judge Merrick Garland, to have hearings on Capitol Hill.
The president indicated that without a “value statement” from a full court, this ruling didn’t hold as much water for his administration as it could have:
“The Supreme Court wasn’t definitive one way or the other on this. The problem is, they need a ninth Justice… If we have a full court issuing a full opinion on anything, then we take it seriously; this we have to abide by.”
Additionally, Obama blasted the belief that immigration is something to fear, aiming comments directly at Donald Trump, while not mentioning the GOP nominee by name. The president said keeping immigrants from coming to the U.S., either by building a wall or preventing a life here, based on nationality or race, is not a realistic option:
“It’s factually incorrect, it’s not going to work. It’s a fantasy.”
Obama pointed to the election as a time when politicians use immigration as “an issue to scare people.” He advised Americans to keep this in mind when they head to the polls in November.
The ruling by the Supreme Court today effectively prevents Obama’s immigration reform plans from happening during the remainder of his administration.