UPDATE: 11:32 a.m. EST: The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lawsuit against President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions. These actions defer deportations and extend work permits to millions of people living in the country illegally. The announcement came after a ruling Monday from the 5th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, which upheld an injunction against Obama's executive orders based on challenges from more than two dozen Republican-led states.
"The Department disagrees with the Fifth Circuit's adverse ruling and intends to seek further review from the Supreme Court of the United States," Patrick Rodenbush, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said in a statement reported by Reuters.
A U.S. federal appeals court has issued yet another setback for President Barack Obama’s plan to give roughly 5 million undocumented immigrants a deferment from deportation. On Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas federal judge’s injunction against the plan that would also extend work permits to those living in the U.S. illegally, casting doubts over whether the president’s immigration initiative can be implemented before he leaves office in 2017.
In the 2-1 decision, a panel of judges agreed with more than two dozen Republican-led states that had challenged Obama’s plan in court earlier this year. The administration had argued that it was well within its right to set policies and priorities for a select group of immigrants, including those who had arrived in the country as children. The U.S. currently has an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican whose state was among those that sued the administration in January, praised the ruling Monday. “President Obama should abandon his lawless executive amnesty program and start enforcing the law today,” Abbott said in a news release, according to the Associated Press.
An unnamed White House source told the AP that officials “strongly disagree” with the appeals court decision. “The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws,” said the source, who was not officially authorized to comment.
Any Obama administration appeals over the injunction could take months and could go back to the Texas federal court for additional proceedings, before heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. Officials could run out of time to further implement executive actions during Obama’s term, even if they succeed in a Supreme Court appeal.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees federal deportation cases against immigrants, said the agency was reviewing the court’s opinion to determine how to proceed. “The department is committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible in order to allow DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to bring greater accountability to our immigration system by prioritizing the removal of the worst offenders, not people who have long ties to the United States and who are raising American children,” Patrick Rodenbush, the DOJ spokesman, said in a statement.
Prior to the appeals court ruling, the Obama administration was formulating plans to bypass federal courts on the immigration executive order the president announced last November. The president could move forward with the deportation relief plans by revising immigrant work permit policies at Homeland Security. The policy revisions could give work permits to all U.S. residents, including undocumented immigrants, individuals with H1B temporary guest worker visas and people who overstay their visas, according to the Hill newspaper.