Obama asks court to lift block on immigration actions

Obama asks court to lift block on immigration actions
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The Obama administration on Friday asked a federal appeals court to lift a judge’s order blocking the president’s executive actions on immigration. 
 
The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans held a rare oral argument session in a case that could determine the fate of Obama’s immigration programs, which would halt deportations and offer work permits to millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
 
A top Justice Department lawyer argued that a federal judge in Texas was wrong to issue a preliminary injunction freezing the programs. The injunction was requested by 26 states that are challenging the legality of the executive actions. 
 
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Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Mizer told the three-judge panel that the states, led by Texas, had no legal standing to bring the lawsuit because the federal government has sole jurisdiction over immigration policy. 
 
“The district court’s decision to entertain this suit was therefore wrong as a matter of law and this court should enter an immediate stay,” he said. 
 
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen granted the states’ request for an injunction in February, agreeing that the programs would cause them harm through added economic costs, such as driver's licenses, healthcare and education.
 
With 21 months remaining in Obama’s presidency, his administration is acting aggressively to resolve the legal issues surrounding the immigration programs. 
 
If the court sides with the Obama administration, it would allow the government to begin implementing the programs. But Obama’s lawyers faced a tough sell before the judges; the 5th Circuit is the most conservative federal appeals court in the country. 
 
Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller argued the injunction should remain in place while Hanen decides on the legal merits of the case. 
 
The deportation relief programs “would be one of the largest changes in immigration policy in our nation’s history,” he said. Texas and 25 other states would suffer “irreversible harm” if they took effect. 
 
Judges peppered lawyers for both sides with questions, but they did not make a ruling. 
 
Legal experts said it is rare for a federal appeals court to hear lengthy oral arguments on a stay request, and they predicted the judges would rule soon.
 
“It’s very unusual to have an oral argument of this nature,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who has followed the case. “That shows the court knows how important it is to everybody. They appreciate that expedition is important here.”
 
But no matter what the judges decide, the legal fight over Obama’s programs will not be over. The case could eventually reach the Supreme Court. 
  
A charged atmosphere surrounded the hearing. According to media reports, a large group of protesters who support Obama’s actions demonstrated outside the courthouse, including immigrants who would be eligible for help under the programs. 
 
Ben Kamisar contributed.