(CNSNews.com) - "It's a great day in America," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on Tuesday, after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to President Obama's executive amnesty plan.
The question for the court: Does Obama have the constitutional authority to unilaterally grant work permits and Social Security numbers to as many as 5 million illegal aliens, thus shielding them from deportation by executive action?
"I'm proud of the fact that the Supreme Court has taken on the case. And I'm very joyful today," Gutierrez told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Gutierrez said if the Supreme Court had not agreed to hear the case, "it was dead."
"It was never going to be going anywhere in the 7th Circuit (Court of Appeals). It was over." The congressman said President Obama wouldn't even be president by the time the case was resolved in the lower courts, and he said he believes the Supreme Court knew that and wanted to make it an issue.
"And it's great that it should become an issue in July of this year, as everybody's having their conventions and we're looking forward to a presidential campaign with the nominees of each party." The Supreme Court usually issues its major opinions at the end of its term, in June or July.
Blitzer reminded Gutierrez that the case is not a "slam dunk for your side."
The Constitution of the United States gives Congress, not the Executive Branch, authority over immigration. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says: “Congress shall have power…to establish a uniform rule of naturalization.”
Obama himself on several occasions has said that he can't just change immigration law unilaterally. "What we can do it prioritize enforcement," he said in 2011.
In November 2014, the White House announced that President Obama -- "acting within his legal authority" -- would allow millions of illegal aliens who had lived in the Unite States for more than five years and are the parents of U.S.-born children to register with the government, allowing them a temporary reprieve from deportation. They would "come out of the shadows," Obama promised, getting Social Security numbers and work permits and paying their "fair share" of taxes.
"I am very optimistic that what the president has done is lawful, constitutional and follows many, many precedents that other presidents and chief executives of the United States have already taken," Gutierrez told Blitzer.
"Let me give you a couple of the examples, Wolf. So President Truman, he desegregated the armed forces of the United States after World War II. He said no longer would we have companies and battalions in the armed forces that would segregate Latinos from blacks, from Native Americans, from Asians, from white men. He did that. You know, it took us until 1963, nearly 15 years later, before the law caught up with what President Truman did.
"The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order -- freed the slaves. Abraham Lincoln did that. Now did we have to change the Constitution of the United States to catch up with that?" Gutierrez said presidents are able to use their executive authority, "especially when the Congress of the United States refuses to act."
"Look, Wolf, I think if you and I were to evaluate honestly the Congress of the United States, we'd come to the conclusion that there are enough senators and enough member of Congress to fix our broken immigration system, and yet we do not do it. And so the president of the United States, looking at the situation, he said to himself, God, there are 5 million American citizen children whose parents are undocumented, who are going to go through a criminal background check, who present no risk to our company, as a matter of fact a great benefit to our country, shouldn't they be allowed the raise those children while the Congress of the United States finally takes action? I get that the president said no.
"But, you know what I believe? I'm going to share with you what I truly believe. I think the president really wanted to bring Democrats and Republicans together and have a legislative solution. I think that was his response to us."
Gutierrez said it's possible that a future president would reverse Obama's executive order on immigration, but he doesn't think it would happen:
"But I just want you to think one moment, Wolf. I want you to think of millions of people coming forwards, registering with the government, showing they represent no threat, paying their taxes, having American citizen children that they're raising. I mean who's going to reverse that kind of situation? I don't see it happening.
"But listen, that's what elections are for...Next November, what's going -- when people walk into the ballot box, one of the critical issues that they're going to have on their mind as they vote for the next president of the United States is, who's going to protect those 4 million people and who's not.
"I think a lot of people in America want a sensible, just immigration system, Wolf, that's going to protect those moms and dads and let them raise their American citizen children."
Appeals Court: The Law Does Not Allow Obama to Legalize 4.3 Million Illegals