In a move cheered by immigration advocates, the Supreme Court has put itself in position to decide on President Obama's latest deportation-deferral plan by next summer, thanks to an unusual scheduling order.
At issue is the fate of Obama's executive order to give temporary deportation relief and work permits to as many 5 million immigrants in the country illegally.
Advocates had worried that Texas state lawyers, who are suing to block Obama's plan, would try to run out the clock and push a high court decision into 2017, after Obama had left office.
After the 5th Circuit Court affirmed a judge's order putting Obama's plan on hold, the administration last month appealed to the Supreme Court.
Texas state lawyers recently asked for 60 days — double the usual time — to file a response, arguing for the court not to hear the case.
Requests for extra time are routinely granted. But giving Texas 60 days would have pushed the high court's time for acting on the appeal into February, too late for the case to be fully argued and decided by next summer. That would have kept Obama's order on hold until the president left office.
On Monday afternoon, the court's clerk told Texas' lawyers they would have until Dec. 29 to file their response — eight days beyond the normal 30-day deadline.
Once that brief is filed at the end of this month, the high court will be in position to decide in mid-January whether to hear Obama's appeal. If so, arguments will probably be heard in April and a decision handed down in late June.
"This is a welcome development that brings the 5 million U.S. citizen children whose parents are eligible [for temporary relief from deportation] closer to having their fate decided by the Supreme Court this term," said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles.