Justice Department files emergency stay for Obama’s executive action on immigration

THE US Justice Department on Monday, Feb. 23, filed a request for an emergency court ruling that would allow President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration to move forward.

The emergency “stay” was filed in response to a Feb. 16 decision by a federal district judge, who blocked an executive order announced by the President in November 2014 that would spare deportation for 4 to 5 million undocumented immigrants. A coalition of 26 states, including Texas, sued the Obama administration for the order. The states argued that the President “overreached” his power and that implementation of such an action could consume state resources, such as time and money.

“The administration believes that a stay should be granted because the judge’s ruling in this case only makes it harder for the Department of Homeland Security to protect the American people and bring much needed accountability to our nation’s immigration system,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday, Feb. 23.

“Every day that goes by, we have individuals who will continue to be in the shadows, who will continue to not pay taxes and who will continue to not have undergone a background check, which means they could pose a threat to public safety.”

The greatest challenge of the emergency stay—which blocks the injunction and allows undocumented immigrants to come forward and apply for Obama’s programs—is that it must be approved by the same judge who issued the injunction, District Judge Andrew S. Hanen.

“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,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement responding to the government’s request for a stay.

The DOJ urged Hanen to decide by last Wednesday, Feb. 25. However, Hanen said  he won’t honor the request because he has given those challenging the actions until Monday, March 2, to respond to the department’s request.

If he puts his ruling on hold while the Justice Department appeals the decision to the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, Obama’s immigration order would be allowed to proceed while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

On Feb. 25, Obama pledged to do everything in his power to overhaul the immigration system and defended the action he announced in November of last year. He said he disagreed with Hanen’s ruling and that it could take months for an appeals court to overturn the ruling.

Obama said he would veto any attempts by Republican leaders to block his executive orders via a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, whose funding will run dry Friday, Feb. 27, if no agreement is reached. The president also blamed the GOP for halting immigration legislation dealing with the country’s millions of undocumented immigrants.

“The pressure has to continue to stay on Congress, the pressure has to continue to stay on the Republican Party that is currently blocking the passage of comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama said at a town hall at Florida International University, hosted by MSNBC and Telemundo.

If Hanen refuses to grant a full stay, the Justice Department will request that the court only apply the application freeze to Texas, where the initial lawsuit was filed.

Legal experts say it is unlikely that Hanen will issue a hold on his ruling because his decision said that states would “suffer irreparable harm in this case” if Obama’s immigration actions proceeded while the lawsuit is argued.

“Based on (Hanen’s) language, it stands to reason that if you stay this order then those harms would start to accrue and that’s the whole point of him enjoining the order in the first place,” said Pratheepan Gulasekaram, a constitutional and immigration law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, according to San Jose Mercury News.

The government was also expected to appeal to the 5th Circuit for a stay, now that Hanen did not rule on the stay last Wednesday, Feb. 25. The 5th Circuit, however, is more conservative and is likely to deny such a request, said Lourdes Martinez, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, according to San Jose Mercury News.

The case could ultimately make its way to the US Supreme Court.

Once the appeal is filed with the 5th Circuit, it could take anywhere from four to nine months before a ruling is issued, Gulasekaram said.

Arguing that Obama acted “well within his legal authority,” White House officials said the government would continue preparing to put Obama’s executive actions on immigration into effect, but would not begin accepting applications for either Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was supposed to go into effect on Feb. 18, or the May launch of Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA)—both of Obama’s programs that would extend protection to millions of eligible immigrants and allow opportunities for working, driving, healthcare, and education.

Although Obama’s order has been halted, the current DACA program is still in place and eligible individuals who have not yet applied are encouraged to do so. Additionally, the President’s prioritization of deportation will continue forward.

“We will continue to assist those that qualify under the current DACA program and we will continue to screen folks for the future programs,” said Aman Thind, immigration project director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, a legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans. (With reports from Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, Las Vegas Sun, MSNBC, Reuters, San Jose Mercury News, The Hill, The New York Times and USA Today) 

(Las Vegas February 26, 2015 Sec. A pg.1)

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