SOTU 2016
President Obama at his final state of the union address, reflecting on topics including immigration, on 12 January 2016 Getty Images

The US Supreme Court has agreed to review President Barack Obama's proposal to grant work permits to 5m immigrants currently living and working illegally in America. His plan for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans programme, which is being challenged by 26 states and has been rejected by federal courts, would give the parents of those in the country the legal right to live and work in the US and access certain federal benefits, AP reported.

But with immigration currently a hot topic – particularly in the run-up to the US presidential election in November 2016 – President Obama's plan has met with early resistance from federal courts, which thus far have sided with states led by Texas, which is challenging the proposal.

The Supreme Court's involvement in the case is also likely to spark a reaction from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose anti-immigration rhetoric includes suggestions that the US should deport all illegal residents and ban Muslims from entering the country.

If Obama's programme is signed off by the Supreme Court, which is to hear the case in April with a decision expected in June, the president would have just seven months to put his plan into action – although both Democrat presidential frontrunners have lent their support to the proposals.

And although his plans would allow 5m residents of the country to access legal work and attain documents such as driving licences, more than half of the estimated 11m people living in the US illegally would not be affected.