Obama administration asks judge to speed up immigration decision

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 05, 2015 5:55 PM

By Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration asked a federal judge in Texas to decide by Monday whether he will put on hold his prior decision to block the White House's executive orders on immigration, or at least limit the impact to Texas.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, a city along the border with Mexico, issued a temporary court order last month halting President Barack Obama's orders that would have shielded millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

The administration asked Hanen for a stay on his order last month and late on Wednesday requested a decision by Monday.

Hanen on Thursday declined to comment while the case is ongoing.

Hanen, who had previously criticized U.S. immigration enforcement as too lax, based his ruling on an administrative law question, faulting Obama for not giving public notice of his plans. He also cited ways that Texas would be harmed by the action but used no other states as examples.

Anne O'Connell, a professor at University of California Berkeley School of Law, said it is doubtful that Hanen will grant even the partial stay, but said the administration's move appears designed to force Hanen to defend his argument.

"If all the harm is about Texas, it does seem like a bit of overreaching by the judge to keep the preliminary injunction in place everywhere," O'Connell said.

The case in Texas is the latest in a series of challenges to Obama's immigration action.

Hanen's decision on Feb. 17 was an initial victory for 26 states that brought the case alleging Obama had exceeded his powers with executive orders that would let up to 4.7 million illegal immigrants stay without threat of deportation.

Obama's orders bypassed Congress, which has not been able to agree on immigration reform.

On Feb. 23, the U.S. Justice Department requested an emergency stay of Hanen's decision.

It also directly appealed to Hanen, asking that he at the very least limit his decision to Texas, because Hanen has not pointed to any specific harm the president's immigration action would cause beyond that state.

If Hanen does not issue a full stay by Monday, the Justice Department will take its request to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, according to the court filing released late Wednesday. It was unclear whether they will do so if Hanen grants the partial stay.

A stay would reverse, or partially reverse, the injunction and allow eligible immigrants to apply for benefits, including work permits, while the appeals process plays out in higher courts over the next several months.

Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, an immigration advocacy organization based in Los Angeles, said a stay that excludes Texas would be better than no stay at all.

Obama and White House Counsel Neil Eggleston last week briefed Hincapie and other immigration advocates on their legal strategy.

"We are definitely worried for immigrants in Texas," Hincapie said. "We want everybody across the country to be able to benefit."

(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Karey Van Hall and Kevin Drawbaugh)