Justice Department to Seek Stay of Judge’s Immigration Order

The Justice Department will seek a stay of an order by a federal judge in Texas that derailed the administration’s actions on immigration, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The request will be filed no later than Monday as the Justice Department prepares an appeal, Earnest said.

“There is a solid legal foundation for the president to take the steps that he announced late last year,” Earnest said Friday at the White House. “We’re going to continue to pursue this case through the legal system.”

The judge’s order and the administration’s response intensify the standoff between the White House and some Republican lawmakers over how to handle the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Hanging in the balance is a possible a shutdown of the Homeland Security Department, which has responsibility for immigration and border enforcement, when its funding expires on Feb. 27.

Congressional Republicans are seeking to use the department’s funding to overturn President Barack Obama’s directives on immigration by refusing to finance administrative actions that deferred deportations for about 5 million people. Obama has threatened to veto any legislation tying the funding to a change in policy.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said Sunday he’s willing to let the department’s funding lapse.

Political Impact

The issue will reverberate in the 2016 presidential election campaign as Democrats and Republicans vie for support from Hispanics, who make up 17 percent of the U.S. population and are a voting bloc with increasing influence in national elections. Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, according to exit polls.

In a speech to Democratic Party leaders Friday in Washington, Obama said Republicans should “stop trying to deport millions of striving young kids who just want earn their shot at the American dream like the rest of us.”

Over the past two years, Obama has taken steps to give temporary legal status to children who were brought to the U.S. illegally and focus deportation efforts on people convicted of crimes or who pose a danger. He has said he is acting because Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.

States Sue

Twenty-six states sued the federal government last year after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a series of memoranda to those agencies responsible for immigration matters. The memos established new deferred-action policies enabling some undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and apply for work permits and some government benefits.

The states accused the Obama administration of overstepping its constitutional authority and of sidestepping the normal process for rule-making. Obama announced his immigration executive actions the day after Democrats lost control of the U.S. Senate in November’s midterm elections.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen blocked the administration’s program late Monday and the White House said it would suspend an expansion program for those brought to the U.S. as children. The program won’t begin accepting applications until the legal questions are resolved, Earnest said Friday.

Johnson said earlier this week that the judge’s order wouldn’t affect those people already processed in the deferred action program put in place in 2012 nor would it restrict the department’s ability to set priorities for immigration enforcement.

Obama plans to host a town hall on immigration next week in Miami, the White House announced Friday. He’s spoken this year about the consequences of letting Homeland Security Department funding lapse, saying people including Transportation Security Administration screeners, would be forced to work without pay if that happens.

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