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Obama administration appeals ruling on immigration orders

Obama speaks about his executive actions on immigration in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

The Obama administration Monday appealed a ruling by a Texas judge that temporarily blocked the president's executive actions on immigration.

The Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal and motion to stay the decision by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Texas. Hanen ruled last week that the administration's program, which would defer the deportations of as many as five million undocumented immigrants, should be temporarily blocked from going forward while a lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging it made its way through the courts.

In Monday's filing, the administration asked the court to let Obama's order go forward while the appeal is being decided. The program, which Obama announced in November, was scheduled to begin Feb. 18.

"Preventing the deferred action policies from going into effect interferes with the Federal Government's comprehensive strategy for enforcing our immigration laws," Sarah Saldana, the director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, wrote in the emergency motion to stay the ruling.

The government argued that the states do not have the standing to sue to block the orders because they are a choice of the federal government. The motion for stay cited the use of "prosecutorial discretion," where the government uses its discretion to decide how to best allocate resources and apply the law.

"Plaintiffs lack standing and because the Deferred Action Guidance is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the Secretary that is neither subject to challenge by the States, nor required to be issued through notice-and-comment rulemaking," the motion to stay said.

While Hanen's order would halt the program nationwide, DOJ argued that Texas is the "only State whose claims of harm the Court credited." and if a full stay is not granted the ruling should only apply to Texas. Other states, the government wrote, "have informed this Court that they desire and expect to benefit from implementation of the Deferred Action Guidance." Twelve states and the District of Columbia have filed an amicus brief supporting Obama's actions.

The administration said that the states lack standing under Article 3 of the Constitution to prohibit DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson from implementing federal policy.

"The Court’s unprecedented conclusion to the contrary would mark a significant expansion of the powers of the federal judiciary and the States," the motion said.