Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday that his department will comply with a federal judge’s order to halt the controversial immigration actions President Obama announced in November, but he expressed confidence that the administration will win its upcoming appeal.
“We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts,” Johnson said in a statement, adding that the Department of Homeland Security will, for now, suspend its two new programs for protecting up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen filed an order Monday prohibiting the plans from going forward, saying that the administration failed to comply with basic administrative procedures for enacting them. The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by 26 states.
One of the programs in question, previously set to begin Wednesday, would apply to an estimated 3.5 million undocumented immigrant parents whose children who are U.S. citizens. Those individuals would be allowed to apply for deferred deportation and permits to work under Obama’s executive actions.
A second program would expand an existing deferred-deportation policy for immigrants who arrived in the country as children. About 700,000 individuals who have already benefited from the program would not be affected by the suspension.
Johnson said the executive actions President Obama promised on immigration last year would “benefit the economy and promote law enforcement.” He also said that illegal border crossings are a their “lowest level in years” and that deportations increasingly affect undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes.
Last year, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 14 percent fewer Mexican nationals than in 2013, but apprehensions of individuals from countries other than Mexico — mainly individuals from Central America — actually increased by 68 percent, according to the agency’s latest statistics.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data show that 85 percent of the roughly 102,000 immigrant removals from the interior United States last year involved individuals previously convicted of a crime.
The administration has argued that it has the legal authority to set and implement enforcement priorities, a point that Johnson and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reemphasized in statements Tuesday.