A court has denied a request to lift a block on US President Barack Obama's plans to shield unlawful immigratnts from deportation. The Obama administration could eventually take its case to the US Supreme Court.
A United States appeals court ruled Tuesday against the Obama administration, refusing to lift a temporary hold on the president's executive orders to shield nearly five million illegal immigrants from deportation.
The US Justice Department had requested that the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overrule a Texas judge who had temporarily blocked the president's plan in February, after 26 states had filed a lawsuit claiming Obama's actions were unconstitutional.
A three-judge panel denied the government's request by a vote of two to one with the majority ruling the president's action should remain on hold.
Obama's immigration action was first blocked by Texas Judge Andrew Hanen after he agreed with the 26 states who filed the lawsuit. The states party to the lawsuit alleged that it would be overly burdensome to take in migrants.
"The president's attempt to bypass the will of the American people was successfully checked again today," Texas Governer Greg Abbott said in a news release.
The White House said the two judges who ruled against the Obama administration chose to "misinterpret the facts and the law."
"The president's actions… are squarely within the bounds of his authority and they are the right thing to do for the country," White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said.
Supreme court could decide
A US official speaking anonymously said the Justice Department is currently considering its next steps. The 5th circuit will rule in the coming months on whether the Obama administration can appeal the block of the executive order. If it is denied the chance to appeal, government could potentially take its case to the supreme court.
The first of Obama's plans, expanding a program that shields young migrants from deportation if they were brought to the US illegally as children was to begin on February 18. The second part of the plans, shielding the parents of US citizens and permanent residents from deportation if they had lived in the US for several years was supposed to take effect May 19.
Immigration activists said the decision was not unexpected, given the 5th circuit is known as one of the most conservative courts in the nation.
"We are disappointed, but this is not unexpected at all," said Merielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, adding that she was optimistic Obama's order would be upheld on appeal.
bw/rc (AP, Reuters)