Washington: The US Supreme Court said today it will review whether President Barack Obama has the authority to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.
The politically charged case — which comes in an election year — stems from the administration’s appeal of lower court rulings that blocked Obama’s efforts to reform immigration policy through executive orders.
More than four million people in the country illegally whose children are legal residents stand to benefit from the president’s orders, which would allow them to stay and work in the United States while their legal status is being resolved.
Determined to circumvent Congress, after it failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, Obama announced the measures in November 2014.
The executive action set off a storm in the US Congress, denounced by Republicans as an abuse of power and tantamount to “amnesty.”
Governors of 26 Republican-led states challenged the orders as exceeding the president’s executive powers, and federal courts in Texas and Louisiana put them on hold.
The top US court has not scheduled oral arguments in the case, but it is expected to render a decision by mid-June, with the US election season in full swing and less than a month before the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions.
Immigration has dominated the race for the Republican presidential nomination since frontrunner Donald Trump launched his campaign with accusations that Mexico was sending drug dealers and “rapists” to the United States.
The mere fact that the conservative-leaning court has decided to take up the case is seen as a victory for Obama, which argues that immigration policy is the purview of the federal government and that the measures it took do not violate federal law.
“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,” said Brandi Hoffine, a White House spokeswoman.
“The policies will make our communities safer. They will make our economy stronger. And they are consistent with the actions taken by presidents of both parties, the laws passed by Congress, and the decisions of the Supreme Court.
“We are confident that the policies will be upheld as lawful,” she said.