President Barack Obama’s plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants living illegally in the US failed to pass the Supreme Court.
The court has announced it is split on the president’s plan.
The divide comes as a blow to Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action which he enacted without Congress and will now be assessed in a lower court.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan applauded the news, saying only Congress should write laws.
However, Barack Obama said the deadlock was “heartbreaking” for millions of people.
“They are Americans in every way but on paper,” the president said at the White House, adding that reform will happen, sooner or later.
“Congress is not going to be able to ignore America forever,” Barack Obama added.
The deadlock between the eight judges was only possible because of the death of the ninth, Justice Antonin Scalia, leaving a vacancy that is still unfilled.
This is the first tied decision produced by the Supreme Court, as the Senate continues to block Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) initiatives had been on hold since 2015 as the court considered the programs’ legality.
DAPA was considered particularly controversial as it allows the parents of US citizens and permanent residents to remain in the county for up to three years and apply for work permits.
Lawyers for the state of Texas argued that state governments would be overburdened by having to spend more on public services with the addition of the undocumented residents.
The lack of ruling leaves the legal status of about four million undocumented immigrants in limbo.
Barack Obama’s unilateral action would have allowed migrants to obtain work permits and would block them from deportation while their citizenship status was being determined by lawmakers.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton called the courts deadlocked opinion “unacceptable” and said that immigrants “enrich our communities and contribute to our economy every day”.
She said in a statement: “We should be doing everything possible under the law to provide them relief from the specter of deportation.”
Republican lawmaker Paul Ryan applauded the Supreme Court for making “the president’s executive action on immigration null and void”.
“The Constitution is clear: The president is not permitted to write laws, only Congress is.”
Paul Ryan, the top-ranking elected Republican, is at odds with the party’s presidential nominee-to-be Donald Trump over his plans to build a wall on the southern border paid for by Mexico.