When Mr. Obama announced in November that he would bypass a gridlocked Congress and enact an immigration overhaul on his own, it was a chance to make good on a promise in a way that had eluded him for years.
But on Wednesday, the president’s lawyers acknowledged that his executive actions on behalf of undocumented immigrants could be blocked by legal fights until nearly the end of his presidency, potentially robbing him of an achievement that could be part of his legacy.
If the fight goes to the Supreme Court, as seems likely, a final ruling might not come until June 2016, just as the presidential campaign heats up.
That timing could produce terrible politics for Mr. Obama’s executive actions. No matter what the court rules, the executive actions are certain to be fiercely debated by the 2016 candidates.
Even at this early stage, they are playing a role: Hillary Rodham Clinton has said she would go even further on the issue than Mr. Obama has, while Republicans have accused him of exceeding his authority.
Administration officials and Hispanic activists expressed confidence that the courts would eventually approve the president’s actions. But with the clock running out on Mr. Obama’s presidency, even his biggest supporters are beginning to sound worried.
I think this is exactly right. After some more reflection, it is possible this decision is more politically driven than I anticipated. By punting the issue to 2016, the President has made this a huge issue for the election, which will presumably benefit the Democratic nominee. Candidate Clinton can promise to implement DAPA–assuming the Court holds it can even be saved by notice-and-comment.