This upcoming Spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding one of the most controversial issues of the 2016 presidential campaign season: immigration reform.
Specifically, the court will address the legality of an executive action launched by President Barack Obama in 2014 to protect up to 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation and provide them with temporary work permits, The Hill notes. That order was halted after it faced court challenges from Texas and 25 other states, whose cases the Supreme Court will hear.
While Obama's immigration reforms have become easy targets for Republican presidential candidates, it is impossible for the federal government to deport the 11 million people living in the country illegally regardless of who becomes president in November. Upholding the law in the Supreme Court would allow more flexibility in the way law enforcement addresses its resources with regard to immigration, as The Boston Globe notes.
Congress had suffered from inaction on any long-term solution for illegal immigration for decades before Obama was elected. While opponents of lenient immigration policies often cite the need for cultural integration or assimilation on the part of new immigrants, they continually block long-term solutions for these immigrants.
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Living in the U.S. without citizenship means a great many of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States are living in the shadows. They do not have the same legal protections against abuses or unfair compensation from employers and are less likely to call the police when a crime has been committed. Obama's executive order to defer deportation is the first step in helping illegal immigrants become citizens, and thus part of this country's cultural community.
The Obama Administration has said that the executive orders on immigration are well within the President's authority, an argument disputed by opponents of the orders, The Hill reports.
"This court has repeatedly been called upon to push back against the incredible overreach by the Obama administration," Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network, told The Hill.
"Executive actions have their place, but you can't change the law through an executive action and that's what the president is trying to do here," Severino added.
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But ultimately, if Obama's executive orders are struck down, the U.S. is likely to simply return to its previous paralysis on the issue of immigration. Whether or not President Obama has the authority to enforce such an order is something which will need to be heard, but at least his measures have constituted a clear step forward on the issue.