Administration officials on Friday petitioned for the Supreme Court to take up a major case challenging President Obama's sweeping executive measures to protect millions of undocumented families currently living in the United States.
The request for Supreme Court review is a major development in the Department of Justice's drive to save Obama's immigration plan and see the programs enacted before he leaves office. It was made all the more poignant Friday as Nov. 20 marked exactly one year since Obama unveiled the unprecedented actions, which would extend a temporary status and shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
As NBC News' Pete Williams notes, DOJ attorneys are working at an uncharacteristically fast pace in order to bring the case before the Supreme Court in the next term. The timing is tight. The Supreme Court has final say in what cases it takes up and when. But the air is slowly getting sucked out of what little breathing room the justices have to decide.
In the best-case scenario for the administration, the court would agree to take on the case, allowing DOJ attorneys to defend the program before the justices during the spring term. A decision would come down by late June. And if the justices rule in Obama's favor — as administration officials and legal experts have said time and time again that they would — then there would be a very quick turnaround for the U.S. to begin accepting applications before the end of the president's term.
Texas and 25 other states took the feds to court over the actions last year, arguing that the administration overstepped its boundaries and placed substantial burdens on local governments. In February, a district court in Texas agreed. Judge Andrew Hanen, a staunch and highly vocal opponent to Obama’s philosophy on immigration policy, placed a preliminary injunction on the executive actions and zinged the administration on minor procedural rules for not allotting sufficient time for public comment.
All plans to rollout applications for immigrants were put on hold. The administration's efforts to appeal the injunction were blocked by the Fifth Circuit Court, leaving millions of undocumented families in legal limbo for a year now.
"The nationwide injunction also has far-reaching and irreparable humanitarian impact," the DOJ wrote in its appeal filed Friday.