The bid by President Barack Obama to save his executive actions to offer assistance in the form of work permits and relief from the threat of deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States had a tough first day in the Supreme Court on Monday.
Following the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia, the court is now evenly divided between four conservatives and four liberals and the 90 minutes of arguments on the first day of the case – which came about as a result of a legal challenge to the President by 26 states headed by Texas – made it clear that the court is very much divided on ideological grounds. The liberal justices openly voiced their support for the executive actions taken by Obama, but the conservatives appeared considerably more skeptical.
A tied decision would be bad news for the President as it would mean that rulings made by a lower court last year that threw out his action would effectively spell the end for his attempts to reform what he views as the nation’s broken immigration system. Outside the courthouse, over a thousand Obama supporters staged a demonstration, as did a smaller group of those opposed to the President’s actions.
Obama needs the support of all four liberal justices and at least one conservative. Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts would appear to be the most likely candidates to support him, but US Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the lawyer for the Obama administration, was hit with tough questions by both during the hearing.