In a potential landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to listen to President Obama’s plan to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. This comes after lower courts blocked the President’s executive actions from taking place. The ruling sets up an election-year clash over the controversial program that some Republicans have likened to “amnesty.”
The contentious policy was announced in November 2014 (through unilateral executive action the President took to bypass the Republican-led Congress), but before it could be implemented, Texas and 25 other states filed a lawsuit seeking to block the program. A federal judge in Texas had issued an injunction, and the action was upheld by a federal appeals court panel in 2015. The lower courts argued that the president exceeded his presidential powers under the U.S. Constitution in making the decision.
The Obama administration had appealed to the Supreme Court last fall to listen to the case in light of lower courts blocking the initiative. The Supreme Court’s justices said on Tuesday that they would consider undoing the lower court’s ruling, which was blocking the executive action from taking effect.
This will not be the first time the President has asked the Supreme Court to rescue a major initiative. The justices in 2012 and 2015 rejected conservative challenges to his signature healthcare law.The Supreme court’s decision to take up the case is a welcome event on both sides.
“President Obama’s executive action is an affront to our system of republican self-government,”said Utah’s Republican Senator, Orrin Hatch. “The Constitution vests legislative authority in Congress, not the President. With his efforts, President Obama has attempted to bypass the constitutionally ordained legislative process and rewrite the law unilaterally.”
Another Republican, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said that the courts had long recognized the limits of the president’s authority. He said that the Supreme Court should now affirm what President Obama has said himself on more than 20 occasions: that he could not unilaterally rewrite congressional laws and circumvent the people’s representatives.
The White House, on the other hand, is confident that the executive action,which was created to shield from deportation and provide work permits for undocumented immigrants whose children were American citizens or lawful permanent residents, will be upheld by the court.
“Like millions of families across this country, immigrants who want to be held accountable, to work on the books, to pay taxes, and to contribute to our society openly and honestly, we are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to review the immigration case,” spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in a statement.
The case boils down to a constitutional question. The high court instructed the lawyers to address the crucial problem raised in the litigation: whether the President’s executive action to effect the program violates one of the clauses in Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which states that the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
The case will probably be argued in April and decided by late June, which is about a month before both parties’ presidential nominating conventions. The Supreme court’s decision will be monitored with intense interest, as the issue of illegal immigration is a hot election-year topic, especially for the Republican presidential candidates, who have been arguing over who takes the toughest stand concerning the issue.Donald Trump has even called for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.