The US government asked a federal judge today to lift his temporary hold on President Obama's move to shield millions of immigrants from deportation. The Justice Department's motion for a stay was filed with the court of US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas. Last week, Hanen issued a preliminary injunction sought by 26 states suing to halt the immigration action by Obama, who wants to spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the US illegally. The states, led by Texas, have argued Obama's action is unconstitutional. The Justice Department is asking Hanen to put his ruling on hold while the federal government appeals the decision. If the stay were to be granted, Obama's immigration action would be allowed to go forward while the lawsuit proceeds through the courts.
It's not unheard of for judges to delay rulings they've issued. But legal experts say it's unlikely Hanen will do so because he wrote in his order that states would "suffer irreparable harm" if Obama's actions proceeded while the lawsuit is argued. "Based on (Hanen's) language, it stands to reason that if you stay this order, then those harms would start to accrue," says a constitutional law professor. If Hanen denies the motion for a stay, the Justice Department is expected to take its request to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. But an immigration attorney says the 5th Circuit is fairly conservative and is likely to also deny the request for a stay. The request could ultimately end up before the US Supreme Court. The stay request is separate from an appeal the federal government is expected to file with the 5th Circuit over Hanen's ruling. That appeal, once filed, would likely take anywhere from four to nine months to be ruled upon.