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US seeks stay of ruling on Obama immigration action

Demonstrators rallied at the US courthouse in Brownsville, Texas, Monday against a judge’s halt of immigration changes.Yvette Vela/The Brownsville Herald via Associated Press

HOUSTON — The US government asked a federal judge Monday to lift his temporary hold on President Obama’s action to shield millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation.

The Justice Department’s motion for a stay was filed with the court of US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas.

The federal government on Monday also filed a three-page notice with Hanen, telling him it is appealing his decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

Last week, Hanen issued a preliminary injunction sought by 26 states suing to halt the executive action by Obama, who wants to spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the US illegally. The states, led by Texas, have argued that the action is unconstitutional and would force states to invest more in law enforcement, health care, and education.


If Hanen puts his ruling on hold during the appeal to the Fifth Circuit, Obama’s immigration action would be allowed to go forward while the lawsuit proceeds through the courts.

Obama revealed the executive action in November, saying lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own. Republicans, who say Obama has overstepped his authority, are blocking funding for the Department of Homeland Security unless Democrats agree to cancel Obama’s order.

Justice Department attorneys said a stay of Hanen’s ruling is necessary ‘‘to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is able to most effectively protect national security, public safety, and the integrity of the border.’’

The 20-page motion argued that keeping the temporary hold ‘‘would also harm the interests of the public and of third parties who will be deprived of significant law enforcement and humanitarian benefits of prompt implementation’’ of the president’s immigration action.


Government lawyers also contended Hanen lacked the authority to issue the injunction, the national effect of which is ‘‘vastly’’ excessive.

The injunction issued by Hanen should only focus on Texas ‘‘so that we can move forward with these executive actions in other states,’’ White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.

‘‘We will continue to oppose attempts by the Obama administration to implement its executive amnesty scheme that undermines the rule of law, mocks the principles of democracy and defies the US Constitution,’’ Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement responding to the federal government’s request for a stay.

Judges occasionally delay rulings they have issued. Last year, a federal judge ruled Texas’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but put that on hold to allow the state to appeal.

Legal experts, however, say it is unlikely Hanen will put his ruling on hold because his ruling said states would ‘‘suffer irreparable harm in this case’’ if Obama’s actions on immigration were to proceed while the lawsuit is argued.