Justice Department seeks stay to implement Obama's immigration orders

The Justice Department on Monday asked for an emergency court ruling that would allow President Obama's immigration action to go forward.

Administration lawyers requested a “stay” of a federal judge’s decision that blocked Obama’s immigration moves. If it is granted, the administration could move forward with new deportation deferrals and work visas for millions of illegal immigrants.

Lawyers for the Justice Department argued in their brief that delaying the immigration programs would cause "irreparable harm," both to national security and to the people who could be affected by the changes.

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"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.

"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."

Last week, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the president's immigration executive action should not be implemented until the courts decide whether they are constitutional. The injunction forced the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the programs, which had been set to begin on Wednesday.

In addition to the request for an emergency stay, the Justice Department has also filed a formal appeal.

The Justice Department contended in its court filing that Judge Andrew Hanen's decision extended well beyond his court's jurisdiction, as delaying the president's actions cause a domino effect that impacts areas well outside the Southern District of Texas, where the case originates.

A group of 26 states are suing the president over the immigration policies, arguing that he is legislating from the Oval Office with sweeping changes to immigration policy.

If granted, the stay would be a victory for immigrant rights advocates, who want to get the programs up and running as soon as possible  as soon as possible while the appeals process plays out.

Obama's immigration actions are at the heart of a standoff in Congress over funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which runs out Feb. 28.

House Republicans have passed a funding bill for DHS that would block Obama's programs from taking effect, but Senate Democrats have filibustered the bill repeatedly, demanding a "clean" bill that leaves Obama's actions intact.

Both sides have dug in on the funding question, with many Republicans arguing that there is no reason for their party to bend now that a federal court has ruled in their favor by blocking Obama’s actions.

Senate Republicans plan to hold another vote Monday afternoon to open debate on the DHS funding bill on Monday afternoon, which Democrats are again expected to block.

— Last updated at 2:04 p.m.