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White House Asks Appeals Court for Stay of Judge’s Injunction on Immigration Reforms

Apr 13, 2015

Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) April 13, 2015 – The Obama administration has upped legal ante in the wake of friction over its revelation on extended work permits.

President Obama’s executive action on immigration has been on hold since a federal district ruling in Texas blocked the administration’s immigration measures. On March 12, the White House elevated the legal battle, asking the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans to issue an emergency stay of the judge’s injunction.

The March 12 request could potentially counter intense opposition that has accompanied a complex case and a recent series of events concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Beginning the process on February 16, 26 states argued a lawsuit against the reforms before Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas. Hanen’s ruling effectively froze the progress of Obama’s November 20 executive action, which has been shielding about 4.9 million undocumented immigrants and creating a prioritized system for U.S. border security.

The Justice Department quickly asked to postpone Hanen’s ruling while it appealed, but the judge refused. An emergency stay from the Fifth Circuit, as requested, would achieve this goal.

Then, the legal proceedings became more complex on March 3, after the government revealed to Hanen that one theoretical aspect of the executive action — three-year work permit grants that replace the usual two-year documents — had already gone into effect for 100,000 undocumented immigrants in the United States under the DACA program.

The Justice Department stated that renewals under the DACA program which were processed after November 24 have already been granted the extension.

The Obama administration originally announced that executive action changes would not take effect until, at earliest, February 18, 2015. As such, this revelation has upset many opponents to Obama’s policy changes. The lawyers for Texas — the lead state among the 26 suing the White House — have asserted that the Obama administration misled Hanen when issuing the expanded work permits.

However, the stated timeline may not apply to DACA’s operations in this case. In a memo, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson announced and ordered the extension when it took effect in November, and it has only been applied to those already eligible for renewal under the existing program. DACA is not new; the Obama administration instituted it in 2012. To counter accusations of deception, DHS officials have stressed that there was never any attempt by the administration to hide its intentions on the extended work permits.

In response to the Justice Department’s statement, Hanen set a March 19 hearing to sort out the facts concerning the extended work permits, which have become a contentious subplot to the larger litigation.

“While there may not have been any intent by the administration to mislead the judge, especially considering the November DHS memo announcing the new guidelines, it is not surprising that the litigants would pounce on this issue,” said Annie Banerjee, a prominent Houston attorney who specializes in immigration law. “And such a reaction is even more predictable because the battle lines in this case have been drawn in a highly partisan manner.”

The same day that the appeal was filed, the Justice Department filed a brief with Hanen. In it, the Department asserted that the White House had implemented the one part of its immigration measures that is not being challenged in the lawsuit – and that the issue itself is irrelevant to whether the March 12 stay should be granted to allow the executive action to proceed, pending appeal.

“Seeing as the Fifth Circuit is a relatively conservative court, the White House is taking a risk in pursuing an appeal in this way,” Banerjee said. “However, the decision does set the stage for the matter to resolved more quickly should the case move on to the Supreme Court, where the administration may find a more sympathetic panel of judges.”

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