Activists calling for federal judges to reject challenges to President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program protest outside the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, where naturalization ceremonies take place, in New York City on May 19, 2015.
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The Supreme Court was split down the middle in its decision on President Barack Obama's immigration program. The deadlock deals a hard blow to what the president had hoped would become a part of his legacy, and leaves millions of undocumented immigrants unprotected, the New York Times reports.

The 4-4 deadlock leaves in place the ruling of a lower court, which blocked the plan. As a result, the Times notes, as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants cannot be shielded from deportation and will not be allowed to work legally in the U.S.

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The case centered on an executive action by Obama, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, which would have allowed the undocumented immigrant parents of citizens or of permanent residents to apply to a program that would stop them from being deported and allow them to get work permits.

“Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: One person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law,” Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said in a statement following the announcement of the deadlock, the Times reports. “This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law.”

And, as NPR reports, the deadlock also leaves other huge legal questions—such as whether states can sue the Obama administration over the issue, and whether Obama does, in fact, have the authority to enact such programs—unresolved.

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“This is personal,” Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement. “We will remain at the front lines, committed to defending the immigration initiatives and paving the path to lasting immigration reform.”

Read more at the New York Times and NPR