President Obama blasted the Supreme Court's split decision Thursday in the case challenging his 2014 immigration actions, but he said it's up to voters in November to determine the country's next steps on immigration reform.
"The fact that the Supreme Court wasn't able to issue a decision today doesn't just set the system back even further; it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be," Mr. Obama said from the White House's briefing room.
The president said he was left with little choice but to take executive action on immigration after the House refused to take up the Senate-passed immigration reform bill in 2013.
He also swiped at presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his proposed immigration policies, saying that efforts to deport the 11 million people living illegally in the U.S. or spending tens of millions to build a wall along the border is "just not going to work" and a "fantasy that offers nothing to help the middle class and demeans our tradition."
The Supreme Court said Thursday morning that it was split 4-4 in the case challenging the president's 2014 immigration actions that would grant roughly 5 million undocumented immigrants a reprieve from deportation. The decision affirms a lower court's decision to block the administration from implementing the programs.
"This decision is frustrating for those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system and to allow people to come out of the shadows," Mr. Obama said, adding that the decision is "heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants" who've established their lives in the U.S where they've raised families, work and pay taxes.
Mr. Obama sought to reassure the more than 730,000 recipients of the 2012 DACA program that the high court's decision does not affect that policy. He also suggested that for those who would have benefitted from the 2014 actions, they shouldn't worry too much about the risk of being deported.
"They will remain low priorities for enforcement as long as you have not committed a crime," he said, later adding that the Obama administration prioritizes criminals, gangbangers and people who have illegally entered the U.S. recently. "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 community," he said.
The president said the decision is an outcome of Senate Republicans' refusal to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.
Mr. Obama is confident that "sooner or later, immigration reform will get done," but admitted it won't happen in the current Congress. He said it's up to voters to determine the nation's next steps on the issue.
"In November, Americans are going to have to make a decision about what we care about," he said.
The decision Thursday comes after more than two dozen states, led by Texas, sued the administration for the proposed policies that would expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that was unveiled in 2012 and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
The DACA expansion would have deferred deportations for people who entered the U.S. as children before Jan. 1, 2010. The current cutoff is June 15, 2007. The newer DAPA portion would have deferred deportations for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who have been in the U.S. for at least five years.
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