White House Seeks Stay on Judge's Immigration Ruling

White House Seeks Stay on Judge's Immigration Ruling
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The Obama administration next week will seek an emergency stay while appealing a Texas judge’s injunction that blocks a presidential executive order on immigration, the White House said Friday. 

This week, the district court judge effectively halted a Department of Homeland Security program announced by President Obama in November to grant some illegal immigrants protected status to legally work in the United States and avoid deportation.

“The Department of Justice will be moving for a stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction order with the district court on or before Monday, and then, if necessary, will assess additional steps,” DOJ spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement.

The government’s motion before U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen could be granted or rejected, or a decision could be purposefully delayed. The judge’s injunction did not hinge on the constitutionality of Obama’s executive actions, but rather on the government’s process of deferring deportations of illegal immigrants and the resulting impact on states.

In its motion, the government is expected to describe a short timeline of days in which it expects a lower court response to its request, after which the Justice Department will proceed with an appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, according to a legal expert with knowledge of the process.

Should a three-judge appeals court panel, and possibly the full appeals court sitting en banc reject the government’s arguments, the case could head to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Those scenarios suggest the DHS process of applying for deferred deportation could remain suspended for months before the legal standing is “settled,” the threshold Obama said this week he would seek before applications will be accepted.

There is also a practical, kitchen-table reason the government has said it will wait before inviting applications: if the process is in limbo, DHS doesn’t want to tie up the $465 in mandatory fees each undocumented immigrant must pay when seeking the benefits of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, program.

“We will seek [the] appeal because we believe … there is a solid legal foundation for the president to take the steps that he announced late last year to reform our broken immigration system,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

“That’s consistent with the way that previous presidents over the course of several decades have used their executive authority,” he added.

Next week, Congress faces a deadline to resolve a conservative dispute – tied to Obama’s immigration actions – over funding for the Homeland Security Department after February.  Without an accord, much of the sprawling department would shut down. On Friday, the White House left the door open to the possibility that Congress could ask Obama to approve another short-term funding measure to keep DHS operating.

To keep the heat on Congress and defend his use of immigration enforcement discretion, now challenged in court, the president will travel Feb. 25 to Miami for a town hall event televised by MSNBC and Telemundo and moderated by anchor Jose Diaz-Balart. The discussion is to take place at Florida International University.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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