The Supreme Court will probably have the final say over whether President Obama’s executive actions on immigration ever see the light of day—and its decision could upend one of the country’s most polarizing political debates, just months before the presidential election.
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it would ask the Supreme Court to settle a dispute over Obama’s immigration programs, setting the stage for just the sort of election-year drama the justices often say they’d prefer to avoid.
Much like the Court’s 2012 case on Obamacare, the immigration challenge could put the justices in a sensitive position—deciding the future of a deeply polarizing policy just as the country’s partisan fevers are at their highest, with real consequences for millions of people in the balance.
The Court doesn’t have to accept the immigration case, but many legal experts expect that it will. It also wouldn’t have to make a decision before the election. But a quick turnaround at the high court that may be the only hope for supporters of Obama’s executive actions.
“Basically, this is a policy dispute masquerading as a lawsuit,” said David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association who represents immigrants and supports Obama’s executive actions.