Supreme Court to hear Obama immigration challenge

The Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will hear a case challenging President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which could shield as many as 5 million immigrants from deportations. 
Activists expected the court to take up the lawsuit. The programs have been on hold since early last year, when a federal judge in Texas stopped them from taking effect. 
A favorable decision for the president would allow the programs to go into place, restoring a key legacy achievement just months before he will leave office. The decision could also have wide-ranging implications for the 2016 election, where immigration has been a pivotal issue.
The Supreme Court will decide the case by the end of its current term, which ends in June, just five months before Election Day. Oral arguments are expected in April.
Immigrant-rights activists cheered the court’s decision. 
“We applaud the court’s decision to hear the case and we hope it fully considers the sound legal reasoning behind the president’s administrative relief,” said Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the 26 states who brought the lawsuit, said the court’s choice shows it “recognizes the importance of the separation of powers.”
“The court should affirm what President Obama said himself on more than 20 occasions: that he cannot universally rewrite congressional laws and circumvent the people’s representatives,” he said in a statement.
At issue are a pair of executive actions launched by Obama shortly after the mid-term elections of 2014. 

One, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), would halt deportations and offer work permits to the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents. The other would expand Obama's 2012 program — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative — which provides the same protections to some high-achieving illegal immigrants brought to the country before age 16. The expanded program would simply extend DACA eligibility to a greater number of people. 

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in the legal arguments that we’ll be making before the court," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. 

Obama's actions “were clearly consistent with the precedent established by other presidents and clearly within the confines of his authority as president of the United States," the spokesman added.

Texas and 25 other states quickly challenged the legality of the unilateral actions, arguing that they constitute a case of executive overreach that would saddle their budgets with exorbitant new costs.

Last February, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of Brownsville, Texas, found that the states had a legitimate basis to bring their case, blocking the programs from taking effect. The decision was based, in part, on Hanen's ruling that the administration violated the federal law requiring a public comment period when new rules are established.

In November, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled 2-1 in favor of Hanen's injunction, ensuring the programs would remain idle and setting the stage for the Supreme Court to consider the case.

If the justices had declined to do so in the next round of cases, it would have solidified the Fifth Circuit's injunction through the end of Obama's White House tenure.

The Obama administration has argued that the states have no standing to challenge the programs because the federal government alone is charged with establishing immigration policy. The Supreme Court must weigh whether the states have standing based on their argument that deferring deportations will increase illegal immigration, thereby putting undue strain on state resources. 

The court’s decision comes at a time when the immigration debate has reached a fever pitch. 

The Obama administration is facing backlash from the left for carrying out raids to deport more than 100 migrants who crossed into the U.S. in 2014 as part of a wave of people fleeing violence in Central America.  
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has rocketed to the top of the polls on a pledge to deport the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and construct a massive wall along the country’s southern border, for which he claims he would force Mexico to pay.
-- This report was updated at 1:33 p.m.