The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will not seek an emergency stay from the Supreme Court to immediately lift an injunction on President Obama's deferred action program for undocumented immigrants.
Instead, the Department of Justice will focus on an appeals court hearing in July aimed at overturning the injunction in hopes of scoring a clearer victory that could allow the program to go forward, officials said.
The decision on strategy came one day after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit refused to stay a lower court's injunction, delivering a setback to a core provision of Obama's immigration agenda. Last fall, the president announced executive action plans to protect as many as 5 million immigrants from deportation and provide them work permits.
But Texas and 25 other states sued the administration, and federal Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Tex., ordered in February that the new deferred action program could not be implemented until he rules on the lawsuit.
Obama administration officials said they will focus on a July 6 hearing in the 5th Circuit aimed at overturning Hanen's injunction. They said they are choosing not to pursue an emergency stay from the Supreme Court because even if they were successful, many undocumented immigrants would remain wary of enrolling in the deferred action program with the appeal of Hanen's ruling still undecided by the 5th Circuit.
The Justice Department believes the best strategy is "to focus on the ongoing appeal on the merits of the preliminary injunction itself," said Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the agency.
The administration officials noted that they have asked the 5th Circuit for an expedited decision in their appeal of Hanen's ruling. In its decision not to stay Hanen's injunction, a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit ruled 2 to 1 that the Obama administration would be unlikely to prevail on the merits of its appeal.