By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday allowed three undocumented immigrant women in Texas to join the Obama administration in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to revive a program that would shield millions of immigrations from deportation.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief order, saying the unnamed women could intervene, adding a human dimension to what would be a blockbuster high court case. They are represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, known as MALDEF.
Obama's executive orders would let up to 4.7 million illegal immigrants live in the United States without the threat of deportation. It was directed at people with no criminal records whose children are U.S. citizens.
A district court blocked the program from going into effect. An appeals court upheld that decision on Nov 9, and the government is expected to file its Supreme Court appeal at any time.
Until now, the women had been blocked from directly participating in the case after a district court judge in Texas ruled they could not intervene. The appeals court reversed that decision last week, but only on Thursday did it officially grant the women permission to join in the expected Supreme Court appeal.
The Obama administration and the 26 Republican-led states that are challenging the White House's November 2014 executive action had previously opposed the women being involved in the case. The government said it could adequately represent the women's interests.
All three women are mothers of children who are U.S. citizens and are therefore potentially eligible for the program, MALDEF says.
Nina Perales, the group's vice president of litigation, said the women's interest in the case is "quite different" from the government's.
"Their needs are immediate and personal," she said. "They want to remain with their children and get permission to work."
If the justices act promptly on the appeal, there is time for the case to be heard during the court's current term, which runs through June. If the court agrees to hear the case this term, the justices would issue a ruling during the run-up to the November 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Perales said her group would do nothing that would delay the high court's consideration of the case.
A Justice Department spokesman said the government "did not take a position" on Maldef's latest bid to participate in the case.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Ken Wills)