WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court’s immigration decision puts 200,000 New Jersey residents and their families in limbo, advocates said Thursday.
The court, on a tie vote, upheld a lower-court ruling turning aside President Barack Obama’s executive order allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and avoid deportation.
The order affected those whose children were American citizens or legal residents and who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years. It would allow them to work legally and not fear deportation.
“Deportation will continue to be a threat for all of the families in our communities,” said Sara Cullinane, state director of Make the Road New Jersey, an Elizabeth-based group that helped undocumented immigrants.
Cullinane said the presidential order would have made it easier for the undocumented immigrants to find jobs and get driver’s licenses.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) cited a study that showed undocumented immigrants responsible $24.2 billion in economic activity, $10.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 103,898 jobs.
“Americans deserve a Congress that will finally act to reform our broken immigration laws and provide a way to earn a pathway to citizenship for countless undocumented immigrants who want nothing more than to make a better life for themselves and their kids,” Booker said.
The Supreme Court deadlocked, 4-4, automatically upholding the lower court decision. Senate Republicans have refused to hold hearings and schedule a confirmation vote on Obama’s nominee to fill the ninth seat, Merrick B. Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
There are an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has pledged to deport all of them.
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.), who is backing Trump, applauded the court’s decision.
“Our defense of the Constitution was vindicated today by the Supreme Court, which upheld my long-held belief that the president’s executive amnesty program was unlawful,” Lance said. “The Constitution is clear: Congress writes the laws, not the president.”
Obama acted after House Republicans refused to allow a vote on bipartisan legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and strengthen border security. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the only Hispanic Democrat in the Senate, was part of the “gang of eight” who hammered out the legislation.
Menendez on Thursday criticized the court’s decision.
“This decision will go down in history as a low-point in our fight for a fair and just immigration system, and will have a major impact on the lives of millions of families across the country, including U.S. citizen children that will live in fear of having their families torn apart,” Menendez said. “For those of us who have fought for immigrants’ rights throughout our entire careers, this is a heart-breaking loss. But the fight isn’t over.”
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