Justice Department asks for stay of immigration order

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2015 - The Justice Department is requesting an emergency stay of a judge's ruling that halted President Obama's executive actions on immigration.

The request would have to be approved by the same federal judge, Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas, who issued last week's ruling in a lawsuit brought by Texas and 25 other states. 

The ruling put on hold the administration's plans to allow millions of illegal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years to apply for work permits.

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In the request for a stay, the Justice Department said the executive action was “ an integral part” of the Department of Homeland Security'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.”

But Hanen was emphatic in his Feb. 16 ruling about what he saw as a need to block the application process from going forward, and he said the federal government would “not be harmed at all” by the delay.

“While recognizing that the preliminary injunction is sometimes characterized as a ‘drastic' remedy, the Court finds that the judicial process would be rendered futile in this case if the Court denied preliminary relief and proceeded to a trial on the merits. If the circumstances underlying this case do not qualify for preliminary relief to preserve the status quo, this Court finds it hard to imagine what case would,” the judge wrote.

The crux of the judge's ruling was that the administration failed to follow a notice-and-comment process under the Administrative Procedures Act.

He said delaying the executive actions did not “enjoin or impair” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's “ability to marshal his assets or to deploy the resources of the DHS.” 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday that the judge's order “prevents the Obama administration from spending taxpayer dollars and taking major steps that would substantially harm Texas and would be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.”

Obama, meanwhile, used a speech Monday to the nation's governors to urge the Republican-controlled Congress to pass a funding bill for DHS before a stopgap measure runs out Friday.

Unless Congress acts, one week from now, more than 100,000 DHS employees, Border Patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents, will show up to work without getting paid,” Obama said. “They all work in your states.  These are folks who, if they don't have a paycheck, are not going to be able to spend that money in your states.”

Democrats have refused to allow a DHS appropriations bill to proceed in the Senate because of provisions added by the House to block the same executive actions targeted in the Texas judge's order.

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