When a Texas judge froze Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration in February, pro-immigrant groups tried to reassure immigrants in the country illegally that they would ultimately win protection from deportation. Obama’s policy changes could have given as many as 5 million under DACA and DAPA, programs that promised indefinite legal status and work permits to certain immigrant children and their parents. That promise has turned into uncertainty as millions of immigrants await the outcome of a protracted legal battle.

It has been over seven months since Texas District Judge Hanen issued an injunction barring the White House programs from proceeding. Despite a ruling against it, the Obama administration has been able to avoid or at least reduce deportations. But it can’t do anything about the work permits.

It has been three months since the U.S. 5th Circuit Court took the case on appeal. They upheld Hanen’s injunction. No matter which way that conservative court decides, the case is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Obama, a former constitutional law professor, is confident that his immigration actions will be upheld. Conservatives disagree. But with the status quo in place, it is unclear if the final showdown will take place while he is in office.

Immigration advocates have tried to keep their constituents upbeat, hoping that the 5th Circuit Court would issue a ruling soon. Immigration advocacy group United We Dream has kept a message on their website for months saying that the case would be decided today.

“The same judges are hearing the case and can expect a decision no later than September 2015,” the group stated in an informational blog post as late as September 30th, adding “this lawsuit is not permanent."

The 5th Circuit is not expected to issue its ruling today. If the court drags its feet for long enough, the legality of DACA and DAPA could be decided too late for it to make any difference for immigrants.

The lawsuit may have "no legal merit," as UWD argues, but the injunction still has th force of law. Conservative legal scholars, meanwhile, think that some of the objections might stick. 

Whatever the eventual legal verdict, Barack Obama leaves the White House in January of 2017.

Democrats running for president in 2016 have all pledged to uphold his executive actions or even expand them. A victory for Obama at the Supreme Court would allow them to carry the immigration programs forward.

A loss for Obama would restrict executive actions on immigration in the future. Meanwhile, most Republican candidates have pledged to undo DAPA and DACA.

In other words, Republicans have two ways to win: through the courts OR by winning the election. But Democrats only have one way to win: they must prevail in the lawsuit AND win in 2016. 

While immigration advocacy groups want immigrants to prepare for a win, immigrants covered by the policies can’t do much but wait.