WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s administration on Tuesday delayed implementing his unilateral steps to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation after a judge blocked the actions at the urging of 26 states accusing Obama of exceeding his powers.
In a setback to the president, US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, a city along the Texas border with Mexico, issued a temporary court order on Monday stopping Obama’s executive actions that bypassed a gridlocked Congress. Hanen’s action left in disarray US policy toward the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally.
Obama said he disagreed with the ruling and expected his administration to prevail once the issue made its way through the courts.
“The law is on our side and history is on our side,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office.
The president said the administration will comply with the judge’s order and delay accepting applications from some of the illegal immigrants for deportation relief and work permits that had been set to begin on Wednesday.
“We will be prepared to implement this fully as soon as the legal issues get resolved,” Obama said. “The Department of Homeland Security will continue in the planning because we want to make sure as soon as these legal issues get resolved, which I anticipate they will in our favor, that we are ready to go.”
The Justice Department will appeal Hanen’s preliminary injunction to the majority conservative 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Hanen has previously issued other opinions critical of the Obama administration’s enforcement of immigration laws.
Hanen’s preliminary injunction is not a ruling on the merits of the lawsuit filed by 26 states, led by Republican bastions such as Texas.
The judge issued his opinion amid a fight in the Republican-led US Congress over legislation passed by the House of Representatives to allow funding for the Department of Homeland Security only if Obama’s immigration actions were nullified. The department is charged with securing US borders, airports and coastal waters.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats showed signs of backing down, especially with the court order being a preliminary one.
The judge hemmed in Obama’s exertion of executive power on Nov 20 that has drawn the ire of Republican elected officials who say he exceeded his constitutional authority.