WASHINGTON — Calling the decision "personal," somber immigration activists and Democrats immediately framed Thursday's Supreme Court immigration decision as a reminder of the gravity of the general election.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court deadlock effectively blocked a series of executive actions that would have effectively granted legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizen children.
"It's a sad day certainly for our movement and for justice, but it is not the end," said Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez in front of the Supreme Court, "and I think it crystallizes very powerfully the importance of November's elections for our community."
“If the courts stand in the way for now, we will make sure the politics start to pave the way forward," said Frank Sharry, an immigration veteran and leader of America's Voice.
Democrats and activists said the 4-4 tie was more than a sign of ideological gridlock, but also a message that Latino voters in key states can influence the results in the fall.
"We have the power in those votes to make a difference to elect a president who doesn't want to build walls but wants to ultimately give people a pathway to legalization," Menendez added, arguing that Clinton would nominate a Supreme Court Justice who believes that the kind of executive actions that Obama pursued are constitutional.
Cristina Jimenez of United We Dream said that her group would push the Obama administration to stop raids that have targeted the community in recent months, but also emphasized that Latinos have deep ties to undocumented immigrants and her group will use the court decision to galvanize Hispanic voters.
"We’re going to be clear with our community about who is responsible for this happening — Republicans, and not only members of Congress, but the Republican Party down the ballot," she said, of GOP elected officials who supported the 26 states led by Texas who joined in the lawsuit. "We’re not going to forget about who is responsible for this on Election Day."
Despite the ongoing criticism of deportation raids from activists, Obama again pledged himself a champion for the Latino and immigrant community, saying the ruling "takes us further from the country we aspire to be." With Obama expected to begin campaigning for Clinton soon, he will have a new argument to energize disappointed voters.
After the decision, a crowd of about two dozen activists, many wiping away tears, criticized the decision and talked about November. Within an hour of the decision, Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairwoman Rep. Linda Sanchez was at a microphone in front of the activists, along with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Rep. Joaquin Castro, Rep. Tony Cardenas, and others.
To many activists, the decision laid bare the choice in November. Gustavo Torres, who said Hillary Clinton pledged to push for immigration legislation in a private meeting with his group Casa de Maryland, said people who are U.S. citizens can vote, not just for themselves, but for their undocumented family members as well, a message congressional Democrats echoed.
"You're going to have a lot of undocumented families that are going to encourage their legal family members that are registered or eligible to register to vote to come out and vote against Trump and vote against the Republican ticket," said Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona.
In Spanish-language interviews in front of the Supreme Court, activists could be heard saying that to win in November, they must vote.
Daniel Garza, the executive director of conservative Latino group, the LIBRE Initiative, who has criticized both Clinton and Trump, said that looking forward, the politicization of the Supreme Court should be a concern for both parties.
"The court has become very ideological, if you can control the balance of the Supreme Court, you can control the decisions," he said. "And we have concerns equally on both sides."
Menendez said that one thing that has been lost is the tremendous fear in the Latino and immigrant community with DAPA up in the air — which came even before the rise of Trump's policies and rhetoric.
He said people who don't know the everyday realities for undocumented immigrants — that they could be visited by immigration authorities and stopped on the way to work or church — would struggle to understand where their mindset is.
"Only if you understand the realities of those fears could you possibly understand what the community is going through," he said.
"Now that we have lost this battle, we can win the war in November."