The Trump administration on Thursday night took the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to immediately review and overturn a judge's ruling that said the administration may not dismantle a program that provides work permits to undocumented immigrants raised in the United States.
Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco asked the court to add the case to its docket this term. That would be unusual because the justices usually wait for an appeals court to act before accepting a case, and because it is late in the game for the court to add cases to its oral argument calendar, which ends in April.
Whether Congress and the White House can come up with a legislative compromise on what is called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is one of the complicating factors in the debate on a funding proposal to keep the government operating.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco ruled that California and other plaintiffs had shown they were likely to succeed on their claims that the Trump administration's revocation of the nearly six-year-old program was "capricious" and not in compliance with federal laws.
He ordered the government to resume renewing DACA and work authorizations for the 690,000 immigrants who held that status when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the program Sept. 5.
Homeland Security officials have said they will comply with the court order and resume accepting applications to renew work permits for the immigrants, also known as "dreamers."
In his filing with the Supreme Court, Francisco said Alsup's ruling was wrong: The decision by Homeland Security to end the program "is a classic determination that is committed to agency discretion by law."
He said a stay of Alsup's ruling would not be adequate, and that there was no reason to wait for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to review it.
Even if the case was put on a fast track, Francisco said, the process "would entail many months of delay, during which time the district-court injunction would require the government to retain in place a discretionary policy that sanctions the ongoing violation of federal law by more than half a million people."
The Supreme Court rarely accepts such petitions, but Francisco noted it has made exceptions in cases of grave importance.
But he is also adding to a pile of requests from the administration. The court is scheduled to meet in private conference Friday to decide whether to review a court decision that struck down the latest iteration of Trump's ban on travelers from eight nations, most of them majority Muslim.
There was expedited briefing in the case so that the justices could hear the case this term.
Maria Sacchetti contributed to this report.