A federal judge in Texas rejected the U.S. Department of Justice’s request to lift a temporary block on the Obama administration’s executive action shielding as many as 5 million immigrants from deportation.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville said the government had not “shown any credible reason” why President Barack Obama’s order needed immediate implementation.
“There is no pressing, emergent need for this program,” Hanen wrote in an order filed late Tuesday. “If there had been such a need,” the Department of Homeland Security “could have implemented the program at any time in the last five or 10 years.”
The immigration order has become a flashpoint in Washington, with Republican lawmakers maintaining that Obama’s actions were unconstitutional. In February, House Republicans threatened to withhold funds for the DHS over the program, and passed it just before funding was set to expire.
The order maintaining the stay comes as an appeal of Hanen’s action is to be heard April 17 by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Hanen, an appointee of President George W. Bush, granted the preliminary injunction Feb. 16 after 26 states sued, arguing the president’s executive action was unconstitutional.
The judge’s order halted federal implementation of two key pillars of the president’s immigration plan: an expansion of the program that offered relief to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children, and a new opportunity for the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to remain in the country.
“Once put into effect, President Obama’s executive amnesty program will be virtually impossible to reverse. Any premature implementation could have serious consequences, inflicting irreparable harm on our state,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in an e-mailed statement.
The administration previously asked the judge not to penalize it for failing to tell him the program had been partially implemented by accident, despite his order blocking it. The government’s request followed a threat by Hanen to sanction administration lawyers. The administration called its earlier actions a mistake and halted the program.
“The Obama administration’s blatant misrepresentations to the court about its implementation of expanded work permits for illegal immigrants under the President’s lawless amnesty plan reflects a pattern of disrespect for the rule of law in America,” Paxton said.
Obama has said he prefers for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation, yet was forced to act after lawmakers repeatedly failed to strike a deal.
“There’s bipartisan support for what the president’s trying to do,” White House Press secretary Josh Earnest said. “We continue to have strong confidence in the legal arguments that we’re making.”
The Obama administration’s position has been that the judge erred in putting a hold on implementation of the order, as they are consistent with laws passed by Congress and decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. They’ve also said presidents over the past five decades had used their executive authority to set immigration enforcement priorities.
Earnest said the administration is seeking to have the legal process move forward as expeditiously as possible.