Steve Heap/Shutterstock.com

FEATURED EBOOKS
Using Data to Support Decision Making
Smart Cities: Beyond the Buzz
Future of the Army
The Supreme Court Will Decide Whether Obama’s Immigration Plans Live or Die

The Court agrees to rule on the legal status of 4.3 million immigrants, taking on a hot issue in the presidential race.

The Su­preme Court has agreed to rule on Pres­id­ent Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions on im­mig­ra­tion, a de­cision that will de­term­ine wheth­er those pro­grams ever see the light of day—and that could upend the pres­id­en­tial race.

The Court said Tues­day that it will hear a law­suit chal­len­ging the pro­gram known as DAPA (De­ferred Ac­tion for Par­ents of Amer­ic­ans), which would al­low roughly 4.3 mil­li­on un­doc­u­men­ted im­mig­rants to re­main in the U.S. leg­ally.

By ac­cept­ing the im­mig­ra­tion case, the Court has thrust it­self in­to the cen­ter of a polit­ic­al storm. It’s tak­ing on the most heated policy de­bate of the 2016 cam­paign and will likely rule in late June, just weeks be­fore the parties’ con­ven­tions.

The Court’s ul­ti­mate rul­ing will de­term­ine not only Obama’s leg­acy on im­mig­ra­tion, but also the shape of the im­mig­ra­tion de­bate. Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions give Re­pub­lic­ans something con­crete to cri­ti­cize and Demo­crats something con­crete to sup­port—what hap­pens if they’re struck down?

Will the Court val­id­ate Re­pub­lic­ans’ claims that Obama’s ac­tions were an ex­cess­ive power grab, or will it make leg­al status a real pro­tec­tion that a Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­ent would have to ac­tu­ally take away?

Hil­lary Clin­ton, mean­while, has said she would ex­pand on Obama’s uni­lat­er­al im­mig­ra­tion re­forms. But what hap­pens to that pledge if Obama’s policies aren’t there to build on? And if the Court says Obama’s ac­tions were an ex­ec­ut­ive over­reach, how would she de­fend her prom­ises to reach even fur­ther?

It’s a sim­il­ar situ­ation to the one the Court, and the polit­ic­al pro­cess, faced in 2012, when the justices de­cided wheth­er Obama­care would live or die. And the stakes are just as high this time: A fa­vor­able rul­ing from the Court is prob­ably the only way Obama would be able to im­ple­ment his im­mig­ra­tion or­ders be­fore leav­ing of­fice.

The Court’s de­cision to hear the case is a win for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has con­sist­ently tried to speed up the pro­cess while its op­pon­ents have sought delays that could have pushed a fi­nal rul­ing in­to the next ad­min­is­tra­tion.

A group of 26 states, led by Texas, filed the law­suit now be­fore the Su­preme Court. They chal­lenged DAPA al­most as soon it was an­nounced, ar­guing that the policy ex­ceeded Obama’s au­thor­ity and should have been sub­ject to no­tice-and-com­ment rule­mak­ing. The states say de­ferred de­port­a­tions have in­jured them, in part, be­cause they will have to spend money to provide health care, edu­ca­tion, and driver’s li­censes to the un­doc­u­mented work­ers DAPA would pro­tect.

Tech­nic­ally, lower courts have not yet ruled on wheth­er DAPA is con­sti­tu­tion­al; they have blocked the pro­gram from tak­ing ef­fect while the de­bate over its mer­its plays out. The 5th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals up­held that in­junc­tion in Novem­ber, and that’s what the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pealed to the Su­preme Court. The states, however, had asked the high court to go ahead and rule on the mer­its if it took the case.

(Image via Steve Heap/Shutterstock.com)

NEXT STORY: Your Weekly Perspective Check