The US Supreme Court has agreed to review a lower court ruling blocking President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration. Immigration is a top issue in the presidential election this year.
The nine-judge Supreme Court will review one of the Obama administration's most contentious and important executive orders with a decision expected in early summer, months before the November presidential election.
The case revolves around a 2014 executive order that Obama said would bring up to 5 million illegal immigrants "out of the shadows" by providing work permits and removing the threat of deportation for the illegal parents of children who are legal permanent residents or US citizens.
The order specifically barred anybody with a criminal record from benefiting. Those eligible would be able to receive some federal benefits, although states were not required to provide any benefits.
Republicans challenge Obama in court
The executive action was blocked in lower courts after 26 Republican-controlled states led by Texas - which shares a nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) long border with Mexico - challenged the executive order, arguing it bypassed Congress and the constitution.
The case revolves around of number of legal issues, including whether states have legal standing to sue the government over decisions regarding the enforcement of federal laws.
Lower courts accepted Texas's argument that it had the right to sue the federal government, because 500,000 people would qualify for work permits under the immigration reform. This would make the immigrants eligible for a driver's license, which Texas subsidizes, thus forcing the state to incur a cost.
The Supreme Court will also rule whether the president's action violates the constitutional requirement that the president "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
The White House on Tuesday said it is "confident that the policies will be upheld as lawful."
The Obama administration has resorted to a series of executive actions to by-pass a Republican-controlled Congress that has not accomplished much and has consistently blocked the president.
Republicans criticize the executive actions - including on healthcare, gun control and immigration - for overreaching presidential powers reserved for Congress. Texas has led the charge in taking the Obama administration to court on multiple occaisons.
During his two-term presidency, Obama has enacted 227 executive orders, according to a tally run by The American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
That compares to 291 executive orders issued by former Republican President George W. Bush by the end of his two terms in office.
Ruling with wide repercussions
The high court's ruling is expected to be made by late-June. A ruling in favor of the Obama administration is likely to trigger a push to implement the executive order by the end of his presidency on January 20 next year.
A Republican-controlled White House would likely reverse the executive order, while a Democratic take over the executive would follow in Obama's footsteps.
The court's decision on the issue of whether states can sue the federal government over executive actions would have large scale repercussions in years to come. A ruling against the federal government would set a precedent for states to challenge future executive orders from both Republican and Democratic presidents.
cw/kms (AP, Reuters)