WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's plan to shield more than 4 million immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation is on hold after a judge temporarily blocked the effort.
One program to help immigrants brought to the country as children was scheduled to kick in Wednesday, but instead Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wouldn't accept applications. And preparations for a second program aimed at protecting millions of parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have been idled until further notice.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen wrote in a lengthy ruling that without a temporary injunction "the genie would be impossible to put back in the bottle."
Twenty-six states sued the Obama administration last year to block the programs. A trial date has not been set.
Obama on Tuesday said he disagreed with the ruling.
"The law is on our side, and history is on our side," he said. "This is not the first time where a lower court judge has blocked something or attempted to block something that ultimately is going to be lawful, and I'm confident that it is well within my authority."
Here's a look at the case and the programs targeted:
In November, Obama announced two programs to protect immigrants in the country illegally from deportation. In the first, Obama expanded eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program first launched in 2012 by eliminating age caps and allowing immigrants who arrived as recently as 2010 to apply. The second program extended protections to parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Both groups would be protected from deportation for three years and get work permits.
Twenty-six states, led by Texas, filed suit in December arguing that the president does not have the authority to allow the groups of immigrants to legally stay and work in the United States.
Hanen said in his ruling that the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not allowing for public review or input in the new policies.
The White House said it will appeal the judge's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
Texas is leading the coalition of states suing the administration over the immigrant programs. The other states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Hanen routinely handles border cases in his court in Brownsville, Texas, but wasn't known for being outspoken on immigration until he wrote a scathing order at the conclusion of an immigrant smuggling case in 2013. In that case he accused the Obama administration of participating in criminal conspiracies to smuggle immigrant children into the United States by reuniting them with parents living in the country illegally.
Unaccompanied immigrant children caught trying to sneak across the border from Mexico are routinely reunited with parents or other relatives living in the United States, regardless of their immigration status.
Hanen is one of only two district judges in Brownsville and hears half the civil cases filed there. Cases are assigned by an automated system.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Hanen's order blocks Wednesday's scheduled launch of the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program. The parental program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was scheduled to start accepting applications in May and would be on hold if Hanen's ruling stands.
The original deferred action program for young immigrants remains in place. More than 675,000 young immigrants have been approved for the DACA program.
Republican lawmakers have derided the protection programs as "amnesty." The programs have also led to a budget standoff in Congress, with funding for the Homeland Security Department due to run out Feb. 27.
Republicans have been pushing to pass a spending bill that overturns Obama's executive actions, a move Democrats have fought. Obama has threatened to veto any bill that blocks the programs.