The Justice Department said on Tuesday it plans to appeal to the Supreme Court in order to reverse a federal ruling blocking President Obama’s executive actions that would defer the deportation of millions of immigrants.
A federal appellate court on Monday upheld an injunction blocking Obama’s executive actions which set the stage for an appeal to the Supreme Court.
“The Department of Justice remains committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible in order to allow [the 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," DoJ spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said in a statement. "The Department disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s adverse ruling and intends to seek further review from the Supreme Court of the United States. "
A district court judge in Texas earlier this year issued a temporary injunction halting implementation of Obama’s 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) executive order and the expansion to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which would have shielded 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and provided them with work permits — after 26 states sued.
In the 2-1 decision on Monday, a three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the states had grounds to sue, in part, because they would incur millions of dollars in losses and likely succeed in their lawsuit.
But even if the nation’s highest court rules in their favor by the end of the current term, the Obama administration would only have a few months to implement the program before a new president who is potentially not in favor of deferment is voted into the White House.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement said the ruling against the Obama administration was a major victory.
“The Fifth Circuit asserted that the separation of powers remains the law of the land, and the president must follow the rule of law, just like everybody else,” Paxton said.
“Throughout this process, the Obama Administration has aggressively disregarded the constitutional limits on executive power, and Texas, leading a charge of 26 states, has secured an important victory to put a halt to the president’s lawlessness.”
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, in a statement said the court’s “flawed ruling” was inconsistent with even the most basic legal principles. She characterized the lawsuit, led by Texas, as a partisan attack on immigrant families and their communities.
“We now call on the Department of Justice to seek Supreme Court review immediately where we are more likely to obtain justice for our communities,” Hincapié said. "In the meantime, we are prepared to continue the fight for immigrant rights – in the courtrooms, in our communities, and at the ballot box.”
DACA, announced by Obama in June 2012, protects undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and resided in the country since 2010 from deportation for three years. The program, expanded in 2014 to included more people, also affords them a work permit.
In November, Obama rolled out a second program that extended protection to parents of lawful permanent residents. However the injunction was placed on it before immigrants could apply for DAPA and the expanded DACA program.
Texas and 25 other states filed lawsuits against these executive actions. They argued that it was an executive overreach, alleging Obama violated the “Take Care Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, which they said limits the president’s power.
The states also argued the programs would result in an increase of unauthorized immigration, lead to an increase in human trafficking and force the states to spend money on public services for the newly protected immigrants.
In the decision Judge Jerry E. Smith disagreed with the federal government’s argument that its authority to implement the executive actions are grounded in historical practice. In the past, he said, the U.S. has used it’s immigration powers to launch deferred-action programs for immigrants coming from specific countries in response to war, civil unrest, or natural disasters.
“DAPA is not such a program,” Smith wrote.
Smith said that the United States has broad, undoubted power over immigration and the status of undocumented immigrants. However, Smith said, states are protected by a law from shouldering many of the consequences of unauthorized immigration.
“Congress did not intend to make immune from judicial review an agency action that reclassifies millions of illegal aliens in a way that imposes substantial costs on states that have relied on the protections,” Smith said.
In her dissent Judge Carolyn Dineen King said the courts should not inject themselves into prosecutorial discretion, the power U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the federal government has in influence a deportation case.
“I have a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made,” King said. “That mistake has been exacerbated by the extended delay that has occurred in deciding this ‘expedited’ appeal. There is no justification for that delay.”
Adolfo Flores is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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