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Immigrants, Advocates React Tearfully to High Court Split

  • Aline Barros

Jackelin Alfaro, 7, of Washington hugs her aunt Gelin Alfaro, of Veracruz, Mexico, during an immigration rally at the Supreme Court in Washington, June 23, 2016.

Jackelin Alfaro, 7, of Washington hugs her aunt Gelin Alfaro, of Veracruz, Mexico, during an immigration rally at the Supreme Court in Washington, June 23, 2016.

They were hugging each other. Some were crying. Others said they could not believe what had happened.

The large crowd of immigrants, advocates and politicians gathered Thursday outside the U.S. Supreme Court after the justices' tie vote left in place a ruling that blocked President Barack Obama's plan to extend deportation protection to millions of undocumented immigrants.

The 4-4 decision, advocates say, produced tears and disappointment but also will motivate people to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision that left in place a block on President Barack Obama's plan to extend deportation protections to millions of undocumented immigrants stirred this emotional reaction outside the court building, June 23, 2016. (A. Barros/VOA)

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision that left in place a block on President Barack Obama's plan to extend deportation protections to millions of undocumented immigrants stirred this emotional reaction outside the court building, June 23, 2016. (A. Barros/VOA)

“Now, I don’t feel defeated. I feel disappointed. But, fortunately, I have relatives who are American citizens, and more than ever I will work hard with all my friends and family, and they will see the answer in November,” said Hilaria Bonilla of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Bonilla is one of the 4 million undocumented immigrants who would have been allowed to live and work legally in the United States without the constant fear of deportation, had the court overruled an earlier decision.

DAPA, DACA

The United States v. Texas case focused on Obama's 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, and the expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA.

The lawsuit brought by 26 states, led by Texas, as well as congressional Republicans, challenged the executive orders and argued that Obama did not have the power to effectively change immigration laws.

A lower court previously struck down Obama's action as unlawful and issued an injunction on its implementation until the Supreme Court ruled in the case. With the high court evenly divided on the case, the lower-court ruling stands.

Obama called the decision “disappointing.”

Immigrant advocates and U.S. citizens who support immigration reform vowed to fight for change in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in a challenge to President Barack Obama's plan to extend deportation protections to millions of undocumented immigrants, June 23, 2016. (A. Barros/VOA)

Immigrant advocates and U.S. citizens who support immigration reform vowed to fight for change in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in a challenge to President Barack Obama's plan to extend deportation protections to millions of undocumented immigrants, June 23, 2016. (A. Barros/VOA)

“Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision," he said. "This is part of the consequence of the Republican failure so far to give a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland, my nominee to the Supreme Court. It means that the expanded set of common-sense deferred action policies — the ones that I announced two years ago — can’t go forward at this stage until there is a ninth justice on the court to break the tie.”

Isabel Aguilar, who was running away from gang violence when she left El Salvador, said she still had hope for the future.

“We can’t give up. I have three kids, and I tell them every day that we shouldn’t cry. We have to keep moving forward, and I always have this positive attitude, and today I can’t give up,” she said.

A tearful Aguilar added that although the family was not wealthy, her husband was an industrial engineer and she studied law in El Salvador. People like her husband, she said, would be an asset to this country.

U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, spoke to those gathered in front of the Supreme Court and sent a message to opponents of DAPA and DACA.

“Every time you stop us, you encourage and motivate us to vote," he said. "You will reap what you have sown. Justice for our community comes next November.”

'Now we have to wait'

The call to vote also is what encourages people like Juan Ramos, who was brought to the U.S. in 2008 when he was 15 from Honduras. Ramos, however, did not qualify for the original 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order.

Immigrant advocates gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington after the justices’ tie vote left in place a ruling that blocked President Barack Obama's plan to extend deportation protection to millions of undocumented immigrants, June 23, 2016. (A. Barros/VOA)

Immigrant advocates gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington after the justices’ tie vote left in place a ruling that blocked President Barack Obama's plan to extend deportation protection to millions of undocumented immigrants, June 23, 2016. (A. Barros/VOA)

“I feel like this could have a relief not just for me, but also 5 million parents that had hope that something was going to change for them, and now we have to wait and wait again," Ramos said. "My hope is always to go back to school. Help my parents. Get a better job.”

Ramos lived with relatives in North Carolina and was accepted to five different colleges, but was not allowed to attend any because of his immigration status. As of now, he will continue to work in the restaurant industry and fight for immigration reform.

“Since I was little, I loved building, so I wanted to go to school for architecture. I promised my parents that I was going to build a house for them,” he said.

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