The Justice Department said Wednesday it would not petition the U.S. Supreme Court to stay a ruling this week upholding an injunction against President Obama’s deportation amnesty, as the administration looks for a path forward on the issue in the courts.
The Justice Department said it would instead focus its efforts on an upcoming hearing on the merits of Mr. Obama’s executive actions themselves, which have come under withering political and legal scrutiny since the president rolled them out in November 2014.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined Tuesday to lift an injunction against Mr. Obama’s deportation amnesty, upholding a ruling from District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who halted the program Feb. 16, two days before it was to begin accepting applications.
In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court said the dangers of letting the program go into effect now then having to halt it in the middle were too great.
Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said the department would not seek a stay of Tuesday’s ruling and will now focus on defending the merits of the president’s actions in a hearing before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the week of July 6.
“The Department of Justice is committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible in order to bring greater accountability to our immigration system by prioritizing deporting the worst offenders, not people who have long ties to the United States and who are raising American children,” Mr. Rodenbush said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The department believes the best way to achieve this goal is to focus on the ongoing appeal on the merits of the preliminary injunction itself.”
Opponents of the amnesty had already predicted such an appeal to the high court was unlikely to be successful anyway.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had said Wednesday that a likely Supreme Court rejection of such a request would be just the beginning of a long process that will keep the program tied up in courts for some time.
“It would be highly unusual for the United States Supreme Court to grant the Obama administration’s request and allow this executive order to go into place while we are still litigating it,” Mr. Abbott said on Fox News.
The thought of a drawn-out court battle is an unwelcome prospect for Mr. Obama, whose agenda in his final years in office is tied to unilateral action on issues such as immigration and climate change, where he says he’s battling an intransigent Congress.
Texas and 25 other states are suing over Mr. Obama’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, announced in November 2014, that would shield millions of illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation.
Tuesday’s ruling halted that program, but left in place a 2012 policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that applies to so-called Dreamers, or young adult illegal immigrants usually brought to the U.S. as children.
The appeals court’s ruling drew fire from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner, who has said she’d like to go even further on the issue if elected to the White House.
“5th Circuit is wrong on immigration. @POTUS followed precedent, took steps for families when GOP House wouldn’t. Must continue the fight. -H,” Mrs. Clinton tweeted.
But Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, fired back by tweeting in response: “Amnesty is wrong for America and for the rule of law. Especially when done by illegal executive fiat.”
Much of the declared and prospective GOP presidential field has pledged to reverse Mr. Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration if elected, even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has voiced support for a path to legalized status for the millions of illegal immigrants living in the country.
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.