The Obama administration will seek a stay on a federal judge's ruling handed down earlier this week that placed a temporary freeze on the president's sweeping executive actions on immigration.
The Justice Department will file documents at the district court level no later than Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday. The request for a stay will be separate from an appeal of the federal judge's decision to issue a preliminary injunction on enrollment to a program extending temporary work permits and deportation protections to more than 4 million undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S.
"We believe when you evaluate the legal merits of the arguments, there is a solid legal foundation to improve our immigration system," Earnest said during a White House briefing.
The Obama administration hopes to restore the president's actions that were stymied late Monday night when U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction on the measures. Administration officials were forced to put enrollment on hold for the first phase of the actions, which were originally scheduled to go into effect Wednesday.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the Justice Department's request for an emergency stay. Any ruling is expected to take several weeks, but the administration faces an uphill battle in swaying the conservative three-judge panel in New Orleans. If the appeals court sides with Judge Hanen, the Justice Department would likely appeal once again, kicking the case up to the Supreme Court.
Any positive court decision for the administration would likely result in weeks of delays for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who likely qualify for the first round of executive actions, an extension to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
Obama faced fierce Republican opposition soon after introducing the unilateral actions last November. Within weeks, Texas led 25 other states in suing the administration over the actions, while an effort is currently underway to bring down the measures through legislation.
Speaking before the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting on Friday, Obama chided congressional Republicans who sought to dismantle his executive measures past and present through toxic amendments tacked onto a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
"Stop trying to deport millions of striving young kids who just want to earn their shot at the American Dream like the rest of us," Obama said. "Help us fix a broken immigration system."
Obama is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Miami Wednesday to address the latest setbacks for the millions of undocumented immigrants who have already waited months for the measure to roll out. Telemundo and msnbc host José Díaz-Balart will be moderating the event at Florida International University.
Immigration advocates, confident that the Obama administration will prevail in its legal battle, hailed the Justice Department's response Friday.
"We are very pleased that the Obama administration is showing an unwavering commitment to fighting tooth and nail for the common-sense immigration policy changes the President announced last November," Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, said in a statement. "We are confident that when serious jurists look at the case and apply the law the administration will prevail and eligible immigrants will be able to come forward, pass background checks and apply for work permits."