The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over President Barack Obama's executive actions on illegal immigration. The case could have implications for executive authority and decide the fate of 4.3 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S.
In November 2014, following the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama issued executive orders that established the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and strengthened the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative.
The executive actions were designed to allow undocumented immigrants who had entered the U.S. as children and illegal immigrant parents of legal-born children to avoid deportation, apply for work permits and receive government benefits.
“We’ll bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules, pay their full share of taxes, pass a criminal background check and get right with the law,” said President Obama, according to CNN.
The executive orders have been challenged by 26 states, with Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller serving as the primary lawyer. In 2015, a federal judge sided with the state opinion, putting a pause on President Obama’s proposed programs.
With DAPA in limbo, the case has reached the Supreme Court. On April 18, the Justices will hear 90 minutes of oral arguments from the lawyers of the states, with Solicitor General Donald Verrilli representing the White House and a lawyer representing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The House was not originally going to be included, but a majority of representatives voted to file a brief to give supportive arguments for the states.
Solicitor General Verrilli will argue that the states cannot protest the executive orders because they cannot prove that DAPA has caused them injury.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has warned that upholding President Obama’s executive actions would cement a dangerous concentration of presidential power.
“The question in any future case, as in this one, is not whether the president’s rule makes good policy,” Gov. Abbott said, according to USA Today. “The question is whether the Constitution allows the president to license statutory violations. It does not.”
Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the high court is split equally along ideological lines. If the justices come to a 4-4 split decision on the case, President Obama’s executive orders would remain in limbo and likely could not be settled until a new president comes into office.
Unless the Supreme Court rules in favor of the administration, those who qualify for DAPA are expected to remain in the shadows. They will avoid applying for deferred-deportation status, being wary of declaring themselves illegal immigrants should the next president favor deportation.