After months of limbo, immigrants and children of immigrants will now have their "day in court" after the U.S. Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it will hear the case challenging President Barack Obama's executive actions, which could shield as many as 5 million people from deportation.
In the United States v. Texas, 26 Republican-led states challenged the legality of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, blocking implementation of those policies.
"Today's victory is a milestone in our fight for the rights of millions of families who will finally get their day in court," said Cristóbal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Fund, in a press statement. "We commend the Supreme Court for taking this case and call on them to do the right thing... it will benefit our economy and bring peace and stability to the homes of millions of hard-working mixed status families."
The Supreme Court will hear the case in April and almost certainly issue a decision before the end of its current term in June, which means the ruling will come during Obama's final year in office. With the 2016 campaign season in full swing, the ruling could mark a decisive moment for many for whom immigration has become increasingly hot-button issue.
Rights advocates say that states' suit was "politically motivated" and are hopeful that the nation's highest court will take a stand against a challenge they describe as being rooted in "right-wing extremism."
"At a crucial time when right-wing extremists are trying to manipulate the rules to further their own objectives by bringing politically motivated lawsuits before the Supreme Court to weaken and limit the rights of women, workers, voters and immigrants, the court has a chance to be on the right side of history," said SEIU International president Mary Kay Henry on Tuesday.
"Instead of driving the same kind of politically motivated hate we have seen in the 2016 Republican political discourse, the court can uphold the values that have built our great nation and keep families together by upholding DAPA and expanded DACA," Henry added. "The choice is clear and the stakes could not be higher."
In a statement, United Farm Workers president Arturo S. Rodriguez said the announcement gives farm workers hope "at a time of poisonous anti-immigrant prejudice from Republican presidential candidates."
Calling the suit "frivolous" and "political," Alex also said that the GOP states challenging the immigration actions "hand-picked an activist judge and conservative appeals court that delivered the decision they wanted and blocked implementation of these programs—essentially using our courts for purely political gain. The Supreme Court must act and restore dignity to our judiciary system."
As Lyle Denniston reports for SCOTUSblog, the court will first have to weigh in on whether the states "have a right to sue the president over the way he chose to enforce immigration laws."
Denniston explains: "In order to get over that barrier, the states must convince the Court that at least one of them will suffer a legal injury if the policy goes into effect. Lower courts ruled that Texas would be injured because of the cost of providing driver's licenses for those individuals allowed to stay in the country. If the Court were to find that the states were barred from suing, that would be the end of the case."
Otherwise, the justices will then face the question of "whether the policy violates the constitutional clause that requires the president to 'take care' that the laws passed by Congress are faithfully executed," Denniston adds—a constitutional question that the states had advocated to be added to the case.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday also announced that it would not hear a constitutional challenge to the president's Affordable Care Act and also rejected an attempt by Arkansas officials to revive an extreme abortion ban.