US top court agrees to review Obama immigration action

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Lawmaker Expresses Relief That SCOTUS Will Hear Immigration Case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear President Barack Obama's bid to resurrect his plan to shield more than 4 million illegal immigrants from deportation, a unilateral executive action he took in 2014 to bypass the Republican-led Congress.

Obama's action was blocked by lower courts after Texas and 25 other Republican-governed sued to stop it, contending he exceeded his presidential powers under the U.S. Constitution. The case will be argued before the high court in the coming months, with a ruling due by the end of June.

SEE ALSO: Republican Rubio authors Senate bill to curb Cuban immigration benefits

The case is not the first time Obama has asked the Supreme Court to rescue a major initiative. The court in 2012 and 2015 rejected conservative challenges to his signature healthcare law. The White House expressed confidence the court would now uphold Obama's immigration action as lawful.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said courts have long recognized the limits to presidential authority.

"The court should affirm what President Obama said himself on more than 20 occasions: that he cannot unilaterally rewrite congressional laws and circumvent the people's representatives," Paxton said.

See photos of the immigration debate across America:

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US top court agrees to review Obama immigration action
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: About fifty pro-immigration reform demonstrators gathered for a rally outside the United States Supreme Court January 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. Organized by immigraiton advocacy group CASA, the demonstrators called on the Supreme Court to take up and overrule a lower court's ruling against President Barack Obama's 2014 immigration executive actions, including the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) guidelines. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: About fifty pro-immigration reform demonstrators gathered for a rally outside the United States Supreme Court January 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. Organized by immigraiton advocacy group CASA, the demonstrators called on the Supreme Court to take up and overrule a lower court's ruling against President Barack Obama's 2014 immigration executive actions, including the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) guidelines. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2015 file photo, Ingrid Vaca, originally of Bolivia speaks during rally for immigration reform in front of the White House in Washington. The Supreme Court has agreed to an election-year review of President Barack Obamaâs executive orders to allow up to 5 million immigrants to âcome out of the shadowsâ and work legally in the U.S. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Demonstrators gather outside the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, calling for an end to Homeland Security Department immigration raids and a commitment from the White House to 'address the damage already inflicted on these communities.' (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Members of CASA de Maryland participate in a immigration rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. The Supreme Court has agreed to an election-year review of President Barack Obamaâs plan to allow up to 5 million immigrants to âcome out of the shadowsâ and work legally in the U.S. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: About fifty pro-immigration reform demonstrators gathered for a rally outside the United States Supreme Court January 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. Organized by immigraiton advocacy group CASA, the demonstrators called on the Supreme Court to take up and overrule a lower court's ruling against President Barack Obama's 2014 immigration executive actions, including the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) guidelines. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: A lone counter -protester, James MacDonald stands on the curb declaring the opposite of the rally's message - Mr. MacDonald objects the proposed U.S. asylum for 10,000 refugees on the basis of security concerns. A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: A protester holds a sign at the rally. A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: A trio of demonstrators hold signs in English and in Arabic at the rally. A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: A demonstrator holds a flag declaring 'Refugees Welcome.' A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: A demonstrator holds a sign displaying the famed image of a Syrian refugee child found dead on the shore. A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: Sculptures of bodies wrapped in burial cloths are placed at the center of the rally as a reminder of the deaths of Syrian refugees. A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: Sarab Al-Jijakli, a Syrian-American New Yorker who helped to organize the rally, addresses the crowd. A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: A demonstrator holds a sign condemning the United Nations. A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2015/09/12: A Syrian-American child stands in front of a banner at the rally. A collection of activists featuring members on MENA Solidarity Network staged a rally in Union Square to demand increased U.S. involvement in the Syrian refugee crisis, underscoring that the recent Obama administration proposal for the U.S. to grant refugee status to 10,000 Syrians is far from adequate. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
In this video frame grab image from U.S. Senate Television, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., displays a photo of the body of a three year-old Syrian refugee as he urged stronger leadership from President Barack Obama on Syria, on the Senate floor, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 at the Capitol in Washington. McCain stood next to an enlarged, close-up photo of Aylan Kurdi, who drowned on a voyage with his family. He said the photo has "opened the world’s eye to this devastating crisis." (US Senate Television via AP)
Immigrant rights advocate Angel Padilla, a health care policy analyst for the National Immigration Law Center, poses for a portrait at the center, Friday Sept. 11, 2015, in Washington. A change in government procedures has led to a big jump in people losing coverage under the Obama health care law because of immigration and citizenship issues. Padilla, the center’s health policy analyst, said it defies common sense that that many immigrants without legal authorization to be in the country would risk alerting a federal agency by applying for taxpayer-subsidized benefits. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
NORWOOD, MA - AUGUST 28: Protestors held signs outside Ernie Boch Jr.'s mansion in Norwood during a political fund-raiser for Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
In this Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, photo, devotees participate in events at the Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple that serves the Asian Indian community in Frisco, Texas. Immigrants from China and India, many with student or work visas, have overtaken Mexicans as the largest groups coming into the U.S., according to U.S Census Bureau. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
In this photo made Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, Ailu Xu, a graduate student from China, posts a sign directing Chinese students to a new student orientation meeting at the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson, Texas. The U.S. Census Bureau research shows immigrants from China and India, many with student or work visas, have overtaken Mexicans as the largest groups coming into the U.S. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 20: GOP Presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., delivers a speech on his immigration policy at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
An immigrant from Honduras who entered the United States illegally wears an ankle monitor as she sweeps the floor during her stay at a respite house, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in San Antonio. Immigration authorities have banned two lawyers from the nation's largest immigrant family detention center, saying they violated standards. But a coalition of immigration attorneys says the moves are unprecedented and is fighting to rescind the bans as part of its ongoing effort to improve access to clients, a key factor in whether asylum cases are allowed to proceed. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
MCALLEN, TX - AUGUST 07: U.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the United States on August 7, 2015 in McAllen, Texas. The state's Rio Grande Valley corridor is the busiest illegal border crossing into the United States. Border security and immigration have become major issues in the U.S. presidential campaigns. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Julian Zatarain poses for a photo at Huntington Park City Hall, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, in Huntington Park, Calif. Zatarain, 21, who is in the country illegally, was sworn in Monday to a position with the parks and recreation commission in the city. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 2: Kham Bhattarai, from Nepal, takes the oath during the naturalization ceremony August 2, 2015 at Parkfield Lake Park. 29 immigrants took the oath to become citizens of the United States of America during a naturalization ceremony that took place during the 3rd Annual Taste of Ethiopia. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Immigration protesters rally in front of a venue where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was due to speak before a crowd of 3,500 Saturday, July 11, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Vicente Mayorga, left, holds a sign next to Dominican immigrant Angela Lopez, front center, of Long Island, N.Y., as she stands with her sons Gabriel, left, and Adrian in front of Macy's Herald Square flagship store, Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in New York. Lopez and Mayorga joined other immigrants and politicians in calling on corporations and businesses to boycott presidential candidate Donald Trump after his remarks about Mexican immigrants. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Students rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol to support House Bill 1403 which allows students regardless of their immigration status to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities if they meet the requirements, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Demonstrators chant slogans during a National Day of Action to #Fight4DAPA rally, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in New York. The demonstrators are demanding the end of a lawsuit that blocks a program to protect from deportation, parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - MARCH 25: A group of immigrants rights activists stage demonstration, supporting 'Dream Act' in New York, United States on March 25, 2015. Dream Act, currently on state's assembly brings education support to illegal immigrants' children. The activist announced that they will be start hunger strike if the act will not pass the lawmakers. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Brochures warning of immigration scams are displayed at the United Farm Workers Foundation offices in Bakersfield, California, U.S., on Thursday, March 19, 2015. President Barack Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in November as a response to Congress' unwillingness to update a policy that both parties agree is flawed. Recipients would enter the formal economy with work permits and Social Security numbers, creating a legal workforce for businesses, greater security for themselves and revenue for government coffers. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: Immigrants attend a workshop for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), on February 18, 2015 in New York City. The immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York holds weekly workshops to help immigrants get legal status under DACA to work in the United States. An expansion of the national program, scheduled for this week, was frozen by a ruling from a Texas federal judge. The Obama Administration plans to appeal the ruling and, if sussessful, DACA would allow legalization of up to two million immigrants who entered the United States before they were age 16. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 18: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (L) and Governor Greg Abbott hold a joint press conference February 18, 2015 in Austin, Texas. The press conference addressed the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas' decision on the lawsuit filed by a Texas-led coalition of 26 states challenging President Obama's executive action on immigration. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - FEBRUARY 17: A newly sworn in United States citizen holds her paperwork during a naturalization ceremony put on by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Biscayne National Park on February 17, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. The ceremony saw roughly 150 people, primarily children, sworn in from countries around the globe such as China, Philippines and Cuba. among others. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 10: Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., greets Heather Pina-Ledezma, 6, during a news conference in the Capitol with families impacted by President Obama's executive action on undocumented immigrants and to call on Republicans to pass immigration legislation, December 10, 2014. Heather's mother Madai is from Mexico but Heather was born in Annapolis. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Pro-immigration demonstrators walk to the White House as they participate in a vigil to support children fleeing violence in Central America to come to the United States, sponsored by the Central American Resource Center, during a rally in Lafayette Park near the White House in Washington, DC, November 24, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 21: Immigrants rights activists gather to celebrate U.S. President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration policy in Washington Square Park on November 21, 2014 in New York City. Obama announced a plan on Thursday that would ease the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 21: An anti-immigration demonstrator moves among about 100 people who have gathered to rally in support of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration policy in Lafayette Square across from the White House November 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama announced a plan on Thursday that would ease the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Demonstrators with the groups National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Workers United of Washington and the #Not1More Campaign, protest an increase in deportations and US President Barack Obama's immigration policies outside the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Gala Dinner at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, October 2, 2014. Obama is scheduled to speak at the dinner. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA OCTOBER 3, 2014 -- Axel Paredes, 40, an immigrant (undocumented) worker who has been in the US for 10 years celebrates with supporters the passage of AB 60, which will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses starting in January 2015 outside city hall Friday, October 3, 2014.. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
MURRIETA, CA - JULY 7: Anti-immigration activists protest outside of the U.S. Border Patrol Murrieta Station on July 7, 2014 in Murrieta, California. Immigration protesters have staged rallies in front of the station for about a week in response to a wave of undocumented immigrant children caught along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and transported to the Murrieta facility while awaiting deportation proceedings. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
MURRIETA, CA - JULY 7: Immigrant rights activist Mary Estrada (R) speaks with anti-immigration activists during a protest outside of the U.S. Border Patrol Murrieta Station on July 7, 2014 in Murrieta, California. Immigration protesters have staged rallies in front of the station for about a week in response to a wave of undocumented immigrant children caught along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas and transported to the Murrieta facility while awaiting deportation proceedings. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
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The nine justices will review a November ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a February 2015 decision by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, a city along the Texas border with Mexico, to halt Obama's action.

With some of his major legislative initiatives suffocated by Republican lawmakers, the Democratic president has resorted to executive action to get around Congress on issues including immigration, gun control and the Obamacare healthcare law. The most recent executive action came this month when he acted unilaterally to expand background checks for certain gun purchases.

His executive actions have antagonized Republicans who accuse him of unlawfully taking actions by executive fiat that only Congress can perform.

Obama's November 2014 executive order lifting the threat of deportation against more than 4 million illegal immigrants was directed at people with no criminal record whose children are U.S. citizens.

SEE ALSO: Republican Party dumps NBC for CNN for Super Tuesday debate

Those eligible would be able to work legally and receive some federal benefits. States were not required to provide any benefits. The order expanded on a 2012 program that provided similar relief for people who became illegal immigrants as children.

"Like millions of families across this country - immigrants who want to be held accountable, to work on the books, to pay taxes and to contribute to our society openly and honestly - we are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to review the immigration case," White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said.

Obama's moves were "consistent with the actions taken by presidents of both parties, the laws passed by Congress and the decisions of the Supreme Court, Hoffine added.

The case raises several legal issues, including whether states have legal standing to sue the U.S. government over decisions on how to enforce federal laws.

The high court added a separate question on whether the president's guidance violates a provision of U.S. Constitution that requires the president to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

BROAD REPERCUSSIONS

The case could have repercussions beyond immigration because it would set a precedent for the circumstances under which states can sue the federal government over a whole range of executive actions. Future presidents, Republican or Democratic, could face new constraints if the states win.

The case is one of the most important the Supreme Court will decide during its current term, along with a challenge to a restrictive Texas abortion law.

If the court sides with Obama, he would have until his term ends in January 2017 to implement the immigration plan. With the U.S. presidential election looming in November, it would be up to the next president to decide whether to keep it in place.

Obama's executive action came after a bipartisan immigration policy overhaul bill passed by the Senate died in the House of Representatives.

The immigration issue has driven a wedge between Hispanics, a voting bloc with rising clout, and Republicans, many of whom take a hard line against illegal immigrants. Most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants are Hispanics, coming from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Republican presidential candidates have talked tough against illegal immigrants. For example, businessman Donald Trump called illegal immigrants from Mexico rapists and criminals and has vowed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid welcomed the court's decision to hear the case and said Obama's executive actions relied on well-established constitutional authority.

He said he recently met with the illegal immigrant parents of U.S citizens and lawful permanent residents, saying that "these law-abiding men and women continue to live in constant fear of being separated from their children. These families must be allowed to step out of the shadows and fully contribute to the country that they love and call home."

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