Disappointing many, the U.S. Supreme Court has tied 4-4 in a case appealing a nationwide injunction on the Obama Administration’s executive action expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and creating the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs. United States v. Texas, No. 15-674 (June 23, 2016).  The split leaves the district court injunction in place pending further action in the suit.

The eagerly anticipated decision will have a far-reaching and adverse impact on millions of undocumented immigrants. The Supreme Court deadlock means the appeals court ruling stands and continues to block programs. As a result, up to five million undocumented immigrants may not be allowed legal work authorization in the United States or be protected from deportation.

The Obama Administration utilized executive action to create DACA in 2012. Under DACA, certain undocumented immigrants who arrived as minors were able to defer deportation and receive employment authorization. The Administration expanded DACA and introduced DAPA in 2014 with further executive action. The DACA expansion would have increased the period of employment authorization for DACA beneficiaries to three years, instead of two. DAPA would have allowed parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to apply for deferred deportation and employment authorization.

In February 2015, Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas entered a preliminary injunction, blocking the 2014 DACA expansion and DAPA creation. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, affirmed the lower court’s injunction. The Obama Administration appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision strongly indicates, at least for the immediate future, that further executive action on immigration on a widespread basis may be difficult and that immigration reform will have to be addressed by Congress, if at all, a view shared by many opponents of the President’s actions. It also suggests strongly that immigration will continue to be a contentious issue in the upcoming Presidential and Congressional elections.

For more information, see Supreme Court’s Decision on Future of DACA and DAPA.