The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a case probing the limits of presidential powers as the justices considered whether President Barack Obama overstepped his authority with unilateral action to protect millions of people in the country illegally from deportation.
The case, one of the biggest of the court’s current term ending in June, pits Obama against 26 states led by Texas that filed suit to block his 2014 immigration plan. The eight justices began hearing a scheduled 90 minutes of arguments.
The court is evenly divided with four liberal justices and four conservatives following the February death of conservative Antonin Scalia. That raises the possibility of a 4-4 split that would leave in place a 2015 lower-court ruling that threw out the president’s executive action that bypassed the Republican-led Congress.
Obama’s plan was tailored to let roughly 4 million people – those who have lived illegally in the United States at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents – get into a program that shields them from deportation and supplies work permits.
On a sunny spring day in the U.S. capital, hundreds of demonstrators, most supporting Obama’s action, gathered outside the white marble courthouse.