The nine U.S. Supreme Court justices were due to meet privately on Friday to discuss whether to hear President Barack Obama’s bid to revive his plan to shield more than 4 million immigrants from deportation, a move that bypassed the Republican-led Congress.
The court could make an announcement as soon as Friday afternoon on whether it will take up the dispute, which would become one of the centerpiece cases of its current term.
Obama’s 2014 executive action, taken after Congress failed to pass bipartisan immigration legislation, was blocked by lower courts after Texas and 25 other Republican-governed states sued to stop it, contending he exceeded his presidential powers under the U.S. Constitution.
The justices must decide whether to take up the administration’s appeal of a November ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a February 2015 decision by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, a city along the Texas border with Mexico, to halt Obama’s action.
Obama’s executive order lifting the threat of deportation against more than 4 million illegal immigrants was directed at people with no criminal record whose children are U.S. citizens. Those eligible would be able to work legally and receive some federal benefits. States were not required to give any benefits.
With some of his major legislative initiatives stymied by Republican lawmakers, the Democratic president has resorted to executive action to circumvent Congress on issues including immigration, gun control, climate policy and the Obamacare healthcare law.
These steps have antagonized Republicans, who accuse him of unlawfully taking actions by executive fiat that should be the purview of Congress.
U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote for the administration in court papers that if the justices endorse blocking Obama’s plan, it would “allow states to frustrate the federal government’s enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton countered in court papers by saying, “Executive agencies are not entitled to rewrite immigration laws.”
Should the justices opt not to hear the case, Obama’s program would be effectively dead, with Obama’s term in office ending in January 2017.