- Associated Press - Thursday, June 23, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Several dozen protesters with bullhorns and handmade banners marched into the lobby of Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office on Thursday, angry that he signed Nevada onto a lawsuit that is blocking President Barack Obama’s unilateral effort to curb deportations.

The Las Vegas protest, which was peppered with shouts of “Shame on Laxalt,” came the same day the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on the case, meaning a lower court’s block on Obama’s executive order stands. The decision doesn’t necessarily mean a new wave of deportations, but legal experts say it dims hope for some people who are “hanging by a thread” in their quest to stay in the U.S.

“We’re worried and we’re saddened,” said Jocelyn Cortez, an immigration lawyer in Las Vegas who spoke at the demonstration. “This was going to be the thing to keep them here.”

Citing congressional inaction, Obama announced in November 2014 that he would expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields people from deportation if they were brought to the country illegally as children. He celebrated the expansion, which would also encompass parents of American citizens, with a rally in Las Vegas that featured prominent Nevada DACA recipient and immigration activist Astrid Silva.

But 26 states have since challenged the measure, saying Obama is wrongly circumventing Congress with the unilateral order. About 66,000 Nevadans could have benefited from the program, activists said.

Laxalt, a Republican who joined the lawsuit early last year, called Thursday’s outcome a victory for the rule of law and the balance of power between the president and Congress.

“Hopefully this decision will yet again signal to this president that he cannot act unilaterally within our constitutional system simply because Congress in his view, ‘fails to act,’” Laxalt said in a statement.

Laxalt did not come out to meet with protesters who crowded the lobby of his office on Thursday, demanding he talk with them.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who tends to take more moderate positions than fellow Republican Laxalt and did not give prior approval to Laxalt signing onto the legal challenge, indicated his position on the matter hasn’t changed.

“He believes our immigration system is broken and it is without question that bipartisan reform is necessary,” Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin said in a statement. “He continues to believe that the best course of action is a federal legislative solution rather than legal action or setting immigration policy by executive order.”

In the meantime, activists say they’re newly motivated to register people to vote and help legal residents become U.S. citizens in the hope they can change immigration policy. They also scheduled a workshop to educate people on the implications of the court decision, which has added more uncertainty for people like 10-year-old protest attendee Yovanna Ozuna.

“I’m scared that I would come home and my mom isn’t there, or my dad isn’t there,” she said.

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