The Obama administration announced Tuesday it plans to file an appeal to the Supreme Court of a ruling that blocks the president’s executive actions on immigration.
The decision comes less than one day after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to keep an injunction in place that has prevented the programs from taking effect.
The administration’s decision was widely expected, and sets up a potential high-stakes court battle over Obama’s immigration policies in the midst of an election year.
Immigrant-rights advocates and the White House see a favorable high court decision as the last hope for the programs to begin before President Obama leaves office.
By making a swift decision to appeal, the administration increased the likelihood the Supreme Court will be able to take up the case during its current term, which ends next June.
Once the Justice Department files a petition for the high court to hear the case, Texas and 25 other states suing over the programs will have 30 days to file an opposition brief.
It's unclear whether the justices will decide to hear the case; they must vote by mid-January to ensure a decision is made in the current term.
Supporters of the president’s immigration policies predicted the Supreme Court would rule in their favor.
Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidRepublican failure Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral Top GOP senator: 'Tragic mistake' if Democrats try to block Gorsuch MORE (D-Nev.) called the 5th Circuit’s decision a “political move that ignores past precedents on executive action on immigration.”
“I have every confidence that the Court will find the actions lawful,” he said in a statement.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), one of the strongest advocates for immigration reform in Congress, said the Supreme Court “is on the clock.”
“The foot dragging of the lower courts to try and run out the clock has delayed justice, but the law and common sense are so clearly on the President’s side that it is only a matter of time before these deferred action programs are fully implemented,” Gutiérrez said in a statement.
After an immigration reform bill died in Congress, Obama last November announced up to 5 million illegal immigrants would be eligible for deportation reprieves and work permits if they met certain conditions. The program would apply to parents of U.S. citizen children and legal residents.
Obama also expanded the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants relief to young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Republicans slammed the initiatives as executive overreach and a group of GOP-run states, led by Texas, sued to block them in federal court.
In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit sided with the states. The two judges, both GOP appointees, ruled that Obama did not have the legal authority to unilaterally hand down sweeping new rules governing who can and cannot be deported.
U.S. immigration law “flatly does not permit the reclassification of millions of illegal aliens as lawfully present and thereby make them newly eligible for a host of federal and state benefits, including work authorization,” wrote Judge Jerry Smith, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan.
“Today, the Fifth Circuit asserted that the separation of powers remains the law of the land, and the president must follow the rule of law, just like everybody else,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Monday.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest slammed the 5th circuit ruling Tuesday, arguing that keeping Obama's programs on ice “results in more families being torn apart.”
“We obviously continue to believe strongly in the legal power of the arguments we have been making for more than a year now about the importance of giving our law enforcement officials discretion to implement our immigration laws in a way that focuses on those who pose a genuine threat to our national security or our communities," he told reporters.
- This story was last updated at 1:30 p.m.