San Diego immigration-rights activists: "We will remember this o - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego immigration-rights activists: "We will remember this on election day"

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego immigration-rights activists expressed disappointment Thursday in the U.S. Supreme Court's inability to reach a decision on President Barack Obama's effort to expand deportation protection to millions of parents of U.S.-born children, but they vowed to continue fighting for change in immigration policy.

"We are disappointed by today's decision from the Supreme Court," said Christian Ramirez, human rights director at Alliance San Diego.

"Despite this temporary setback, immigrant families are not deterred, we will continue to work to urge policy makers in Washington, D.C., to get to work and fix our inhumane immigration system," Ramirez said. "It is evident that the unwillingness of Congress to do its job has caused gridlock in the judicial branch. We will remember this on election day."

Obama's executive action, announced two years ago, would have allowed immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to request relief from deportation and authorization to work for three years. To qualify, they must have been in the country for more than five years, pass a criminal background check, pay fees and show that their child was born prior to the issuance of the executive order.

RELATED: Obama immigration plan blocked by 4-4 tie at Supreme Court

Once qualified, they would have also had to pay taxes.

The order also would have expanded the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, by removing the upper age limit of 30. The DACA program would have been amended to offer three years of protection from deportation, up from the previous two years.

Even though the 2012 DACA program wasn't expanded, its provisions remain in effect, according to Alliance San Diego.

The actions were challenged in court by officials in several states, and a lower court judge issued an order blocking the actions, leading to the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation's highest court -- still short one member -- split today 4-4, meaning the lower court ruling remains in effect.

"My heart breaks for the millions of our country's residents who live every day in fear of a deportation order that will rip their families apart and who will once again have to wait for justice," said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

"But, history is long and I remain confident that today's decision is not a defeat but a delay," Gonzalez said. "This ongoing gridlock is another reminder of how critical it is for the U.S. Senate to finally fill the lingering vacancy on the Supreme Court and allow the nation to move forward with definitive rulings on how the laws of the land apply to modern realities, and I look forward to the U.S. Senate eventually doing its duty to allow our country to move forward."

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, called the decision a victory for the Constitution and rule of law.

"In our democracy, the president doesn't get to legislate by executive decree whenever the people's representatives don't give him what he wants," Issa said.

"He has to follow the Constitution which says laws come from the American people through the legislative branch, not the president," the congressman said. "The decision today protects the American people from executive power run amok."

Obama told reporters at the White House the court's inability to reach a decision was a direct result of Republicans blocking his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving the panel without a deciding ninth vote following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Republican lawmakers have said they will not consider Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, until after the presidential election in November.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, hailed the court's decision.

"The Supreme Court's ruling makes the president's executive action on immigration null and void," he said. "The Constitution is clear. The president is not permitted to write laws -- only Congress is. This is another major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers."

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