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Supreme Court appears divided over Obama plan to shield immigrants from deportation

By
Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., speaks outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, as the court hears oral arguments in the case of United States v. Texas -- a legal challenge to the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., speaks outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, as the court hears oral arguments in the case of United States v. Texas -- a legal challenge to the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court appears split regarding a legal challenge to President Barack Obama's protection plan for undocumented immigrants -- in a case it may not be able to resolve without a ninth justice.

During extended oral arguments Monday, the justices seemed divided over the president's plan to shield the immigrants from deportation and allow them to work in the United States legally. If a 4-4 deadlock occurs, it would leave in place an appeals court ruling that blocks Obama's plan and prevents him from reviving it during his remaining nine months in office.

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The case could, however, be brought back to the high court once it's back to full strength with nine justices.

Obama's executive orders -- the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs -- allow illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

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Obama announced the executive orders in November 2014, but a Texas court froze the plan months later, sending it to the Supreme Court.

The legal challenge, United States v. Texas, No. 15-674, was brought by the Lone Star State and 25 others, and some of the high court's conservative members on Monday appeared to side with their positions, including Chief Justice John Roberts.

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Others, including the millions of Mexican immigrants already present and working in the United States, are literally standing up in support of the president's plan.

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Rallies took place in several U.S. cities Monday, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Houston, and Denver. Immigration experts say about a quarter of those who stand to benefit from Obama's plan live in California.

Many supporters camped overnight outside of the Supreme Court building in Washington on Sunday.

"I chose this country to be my home because I wanted something better for my children," Jeanette Vizguerra, an activist and mother of four facing deportation orders, told The Washington Post. "We are all here to defend this program. It is not illegal. The president was trying to help."

At issue for the eight justices is whether the president has the power to extend such "temporary relief" from deportation and offer work permits to illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens or lawful residents without congressional approval.

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