The Supreme Court has declined to rehear a case in which it split 4-4, thereby affirming a lower court’s ruling blocking President Obama’s proposed programs to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and apply for work authorization.

Key points:

  • The Court announced Monday that it would not rehear the case after the Justice Department filed a Petition for Rehearing in July, requesting a new hearing before a full nine-member court. The Court has had a vacancy since Justice Antonin Scalia died in February.
  • The Court’s 4-4 split and its decision not to rehear the case mean that a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit blocking Obama’s immigration plans will stand.

Background: In 2014, Obama announced plans to use his executive authority to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and create a similar program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Eligible applicants would have been allowed to remain in the U.S. and apply for work authorization.

The initiatives were put on hold after a federal court sided with 26 states, led by Texas, that sued to block their implementation. The 5th Circuit upheld the injunction and the Supreme Court affirmed the 5th Circuit ruling in a 4-4 split in June.

In its July petition, the Justice Department acknowledged that it is “exceedingly rare” for the Court to grant a rehearing, but urged a full Court to rehear the case “rather than allow a nonprecedential affirmance by an equally divided Court to leave in place a nationwide injunction of such significance.”

BAL Analysis: The Court rulings keeping the injunction in place were a significant defeat for the Obama administration and supporters of its immigration programs, but the decision not to rehear the case was not a surprise. The merits of the lawsuit remain to be decided by the district court in Brownsville, Texas. The rulings in the case do not impact the administration’s immigration policies related to high-skilled workers.

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