The Obama administration is asking a federal court in Texas to lift the freeze on enrollment for the president’s sweeping immigration actions and allow the program to move forward as planned.
The Department of Justice filed notice Monday asking for an emergency stay after U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen last week blocked the implementation of the president’s executive actions just days before the measures were set to roll out. In addition to challenging Hanen’s preliminary injunction, the DOJ plans to appeal the order blocking deportation relief to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.
The immigration actions are “an integral part of the Department’s comprehensive effort to set and effectuate immigration enforcement priorities that focus on the removal of threats to public safety, national security risks and recent border crossers, thereby best securing the Homeland in the face of limited resources,” the Obama administration said.
If the federal judge does not grant a full stay, the DOJ will then ask the court to only apply the application freeze to Texas, where the initial lawsuit was filed. This would open up enrollment for the first phase of the executive measures – an expansion to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – throughout the rest of the country.
The judge has until Wednesday to make a determination before the Department of Justice would kick the issue up to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, a conservative-leaning three-judge panel in New Orleans. From there, the Obama administration has said it is willing to appeal the issue up to the highest court.
President Obama first introduced his unilateral actions in November, pledging to provide a temporary work status and shield from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children as well as the parents of U.S.-born citizens. The announcement was met with swift Republican opposition nationwide, prompting Texas to lead a 25-state lawsuit against the administration. In Congress, lawmakers are in the midst of attempts to bring down the measures by withholding funding in a crucial bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security running.
Lawmakers have until Friday to pass legislation through Congress before the DHS would potentially shut down. Senate Republicans Monday evening plan to make a fourth attempt to push a DHS funding bill through an almost certain Democratic filibuster. From there, the fate of the department’s funding is unclear. Democrats are calling for Congress to pass a “clean” bill that drops any attempt to unravel the Obama’s executive actions, while the president has vowed to veto legislation that would dismantle his own measures.
Speaking to the nation’s governors gathered at the White House Monday, Obama condemned the shutdown threat for jeopardizing the jobs of thousands of employees who work under the DHS umbrella.
“These are folks who, if they don’t have a paycheck, are not going to be able to spend that money in your states. It will have a direct impact on your economy, and it will have a direct impact on America’s national security, because their hard work helps to keep us safe,” Obama said. “And as governors, you know that we can’t afford to play politics with our national security.”
In a letter to employees impacted by the budget standoff, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said the agency was preparing for a contingency plan in the “unlikely and unfortunate” event that Congress blows past the deadline.
“In the meantime,” Johnson wrote, “please carry on in your important work. Have faith that this difficult and unnecessary situation will be resolved.”