The government on Friday asked the Supreme Court to lift an injunction that has blocked President Barack Obama’s executive actions affecting millions of undocumented immigrants.
The Justice Department filed a petition that argued the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans committed “manifold and significant errors” when it allowed an unprecedented nationwide halt to “a federal immigration enforcement policy of great national importance.”
The timing of the petition leaves open the possibility that the Supreme Court could agree to hear the case this term. If the court accepts the case, it would likely issue a ruling late in June, in the heat of a presidential election in which executive actions on immigration could play a big role.
“If left undisturbed, that ruling will allow states to frustrate the federal government’s enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws,” the Justice Department wrote. “It will force millions of people — who are not removal priorities under criteria the court conceded are valid, and who are parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents — to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families.
“And it will place a cloud over the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as children, have lived here for years, and been accorded deferred action under the 2012 DACA policy, which respondents have never challenged,” the government argued in the brief.
Friday’s appeal was not a surprise. The Justice Department said it would seek a review from the high court on Nov. 10, the day after the 5th Circuit’s 2-1 decision to block the November 2014 executive actions. The administration’s success at the Supreme Court could hinge on how the court interprets one of its own decisions from 2012.
The 5th Circuit majority wrote that Texas has a legal right to challenge the federal government’s actions on immigration because states could face millions of dollars in costs if the immigrants obtained drivers licenses and other benefits. Texas was among the first states to file suit and has taken the lead among 26 trying to block the action.
The 5th Circuit decision also rejected the administration’s argument that the injunction should not apply nationwide, in part because beneficiaries would be free to travel between states that were or were not under the injunction.
If the Supreme Court doesn’t hear the case this term, it would likely mean Obama would leave office without being able to implement his actions.
Even if the Supreme Court accepts the case and decides by the end of June, Obama’s executive actions might be in effect only until the next president takes office in January 2017. Many undocumented immigrants might be leery of identifying as such with the government to get benefits that might soon be taken away.