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By Pamela Chan
January 19, 2016
Caption : As of Tuesday, the Supreme Court has decided to take up President Obama's immigration actions. The High Court will decide by late June whether or not to undo lower court orders currently blocking plans to grant 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. legal status.     

Last December, Texas urged the Supreme Court not to consider an appeal on President Obama’s immigration program, arguing that lower courts had properly rejected the administration’s “sweeping and unprecedented assertion of executive authority.”

A 42-page brief had been filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claiming that the President’s plan to protect millions of immigrants recklessly bypassed constitutional authority, as well as several established federal laws. In addition, a coalition of 26 states, led by Texas, went on to argue that the Obama administration had failed to provide them enough notice and opportunity for comment—factors that should have been considered and required before such a major policy change was officially made.

“President Obama’s executive action on immigration represents an unprecedented attempt to expand the power of the executive branch,” said Paxton in a statement. “The President alone does not have the authority to grant millions of illegal immigrants a host of benefits—like Social Security and Medicare—which should be reserved for lawful citizens.”

The Supreme Court had been mulling over whether or not to consider the case during this current term. If it agrees to do so, a decision could be announced by the justices near the summer months, deciding the fate of millions of immigrants.

As of this week, however, the High Court has finally chosen to take action on Obama’s widely disputed case. The justices will consider undoing lower court orders that had previously blocked the plan from taking effect in the midst of the current presidential election. The case will be argued in April and decided by late June, about a month before both parties gather for their nominating conventions.

“Millions of families have waited nearly a year for these programs to take effect,” said Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center. “They will now get a full day in court as the nation’s highest court hears this case of tremendous moral and legal importance.”

With hope now on the side of almost 5 million undocumented individuals living in the U.S. illegally, both young and old alike could potentially benefit significantly from the administration’s plans, especially the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. If the justices eventually side with the administration, Obama would have about seven months to try to roll out the expanded DACA and DAPA programs, reports Politico.

It is important to note though that, so far, the federal courts have been particularly favorable to the 26 states who had initially signed the lawsuit against the administration (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin).

Paxton, who has been leading the charge in court against the Obama administration, says that the unilateral actions are not only unconstitutional, but that the administration also violated the Administrative Procedures Act, a law that sets forth how federal agencies can establish regulations.

“The Executive does have enforcement discretion to forbear from removing aliens on an individual basis,” Paxton argues, but that does not include “the power to deem unlawful conduct as lawful, or to change an alien’s statutory immigration classification.”

“As federal courts have already ruled three times, there are limits to the President’s authority, and those limits enacted by Congress were exceeded when the President unilaterally sought to grant ‘lawful presence’ to more than 4 million unauthorized aliens who are in this country unlawfully,” he said in a statement. “The Court should affirm what President Obama said himself on more than 20 occasions: that he cannot unilaterally rewrite congressional laws and circumvent the people’s representatives.” Paxton further noted that by taking up the case, the Supreme Court “recognizes the importance of the separation of powers.”

The Obama administration continues to argue that the actions are a valid exercise of prosecutorial discretion and that Texas and the states lack the legal harm, or “standing,” to challenge them in Court. On Tuesday, The White House said that it is pleased that SCOTUS has agreed to review the immigration case and that it is “confident that the policies will be upheld as lawful.”

For now, there is only one thing that is absolutely certain—this case and these programs, as the states said in their statement, will no doubt “represent one of the largest changes in immigration policy in our Nation’s history.”

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