Supreme Court to judge Obama immigrant protection plan

United States justices to review lower court's decision to block Obama's order, which shields millions from deportation.

    Supreme Court to judge Obama immigrant protection plan
    The border state of Texas is leading 26 states in challenging the immigration plan of President Obama [File: AP]

    United States President Barack Obama's effort to shield more than four million immigrants from deportation has been given new life after the Supreme Court agreed to review lower court rulings which blocked the initiative.

    Obama's 2014 executive order lifted the threat of deportation against immigrants with no criminal record whose children are US citizens, but upset a large number of states which argued that the president had overstepped his bounds.

    The Supreme Court's justices said on Tuesday that they would review a November ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a February 2015 decision by US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, to halt Obama's action.

    The border state of Texas is leading 26 states in challenging the immigration plan. 

    The Supreme Court's decision to review the case, which was brought by the Department of Justice, is likely to have a strong effect on this year's US presidential race - with immigration policy a major campaign issue for both Democrats and Republicans.

    The case will likely be argued in April and decided by late June, about a month before both parties' presidential nominating conventions.

    READ MORE: Obama set to announce key immigration reforms

    The possible nullification of the Obama order will most likely affect millions of Latinos, who are increasingly becoming politically influential and could determine the outcome of the presidential election. 

    In the latest Congressional mid-term elections in the US in 2014, up to 25 million Latinos were eligible to vote, although voter turnout remains low.

    In the country's most populous state of California, Latinos account for about 38 percent of the population, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

    'Correcting legal error'

    A spokesman for the New York Immigration Coalition told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the Supreme Court's decision fast-tracked the possibility for millions of immigrants to stay and work legally in the US.

    "We are pleased with the decision of the Supreme Court. This is what we have been pushing for," Thanu Yakupitiyage said. 

    "It signifies a lot to immigrant communities, who have been waiting for a year now, because all of 2015, President Obama's actions were delayed."

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    She said she is confident of the legality of the order and that the Supreme Court will rule in Obama's favour.

    "Before President Obama put forward his executive action, there were lawyers and whole teams looking at the constitutionality of whether he could do this. And based on that, he is able by executive action to do that."

    In New York, around 300,000 immigrants could potentially benefit from the rule, which could come into effect as early as June or July, she added. 

    In a statement sent to Al Jazeera, Mairele Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the Supreme Court "has the opportunity to remedy this grievous legal and moral error".

    Hincapie said she was confident the court would uphold the legality of the oder.

    "The legal argument is clear: President Obama, like every president before him for nearly half a century, can and should exercise discretion in immigration matters," she said.

    "But the moral, economic, and societal arguments in favour of the president’s immigration initiatives are no less important."

    With additional reporting by Al Jazeera's Ted Regencia

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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