The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday deferred a decision about whether to hear the Justice Department's challenge to a federal appellate ruling blocking implementation of President Barack Obama's executive orders to shield some 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Though the immigration matter does not appear on Friday's list of cases to be heard during the current term, the nine justices still have time to add it to the docket.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans voted 2-1 in November to uphold a judicial injunction blocking implementation of Obama's immigration measures.

The injunction was granted in February by Andrew Hanen, a U.S. district judge in Brownsville, Texas, in response to a suit filed by Texas and 25 other states - all governed by Republicans - contending that Obama exceeded his constitutional authority.

Obama issued the executive orders in 2014, acting unilaterally after the Republican-controlled Congress refused to legislate comprehensive immigration reform, one of his priorities since he became president in 2008.

The main aspects of Obama's plan are an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which offers successful applicants a three-year reprieve from deportation and a temporary work permit.

Since its launch in 2012, DACA has prevented the deportation of more than 500,000 young migrants.

In parallel, Obama's proposal would temporarily legalize the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents under a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.

If the nine judges that make up the U.S. Supreme Couort decide not to to hear the case, the president's measures will be annulled. 

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