A federal judge on Tuesday denied a Justice Department request to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama's executive action that sought to shield millions of immigrants from deportation.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen refused to stay his Feb. 16 decision that granted a preliminary injunction requested by 26 states. The U.S. government wants the injunction lifted -- allowing Obama's action to proceed -- while it appeals Hanen's ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans.
The Justice Department has already asked the 5th Circuit to lift the injunction. The appeals court was scheduled to hear arguments on whether the injunction should be lifted on April 17.
The coalition of 26 states has filed a lawsuit to overturn Obama's executive actions, which would spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. The states, led by Texas, argue that the action is unconstitutional and would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education. The injunction is intended to stall Obama's actions while the lawsuit progresses through the courts.
Justice Department attorneys argue that keeping the temporary hold harms "the interests of the public and of third parties who will be deprived of significant law enforcement and humanitarian benefits of prompt implementation" of the president's immigration action.
Obama announced the executive orders in November, saying a lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own.