The White House has pledged an appeal against a Texan judge's bid to halt President Obama's planned immigration reforms. The changes would shield millions of people living in the US illegally from deportation.
The White House said on Tuesday that the ruling by Texas District Judge Andrew Hanen would be appealed by the Department of Justice because it "wrongly prevents" US President Barack Obama's "lawful, commonsense policies" from taking effect.
On Monday, Hanen granted a temporary injunction at the Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas, giving a coalition of 26 states opposed to Obama's orders time to pursue a lawsuit to prevent them being implemented.
Obama used his executive authority last November to bypass Congress and announce a program that would protect as many as 5 million people living in the United States illegally from deportation. At the time, the president said he was compelled to act because bilateral legislation to reform the country's immigration system had been blocked in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
In a memorandum accompanying Monday's ruling, Hanen said the Obama administration had failed to comply with basic administrative procedures for putting such "a massive change" into effect. He added that the states would "bear the lion's share of its consequences," and that the lawsuit should go ahead.
In a statement, the White House said the Justice Department, legal scholars, immigration experts and the federal district court in Washington had determined that Obama's actions were well within his legal authority, and that the policies were needed to "help fix our broken immigration system."
The first of Obama's orders - to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the US illegally as children - was set to come into force on Wednesday. In the other main policy change proposal, illegal immigratns who have lived in the US for at least five years, have children who are US citizens, and have no past criminal convictions, would no longer qualify for deportation. This was set to take effect around mid-May.
The president's sweeping reforms were hailed by immigrant advocates, while infuriated Republicans argued the orders would be a costly burden on the states. Texan Republican governor Greg Abbott is leading the group of 26 states suing the administration over the plans, which he says violate constitutional limits on his powers.
"Judge Hanen's decision rightly stops the president's overreach in its tracks," said Abbott. "The president's attempt to by-pass the will of the American people was successfully checked today."