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.