The Obama administration said Tuesday it will ask the Supreme Court to save its plans to shield from deportation millions of immigrants living in the US illegally. The appeal advances a legal confrontation with 26 states during a presidential race already roiled by disputes over US immigration policy.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals late Monday effectively blocked President Barack Obama's plan to protect as many as 5 million immigrants, primarily the immigrant parents of US citizens and legal permanent residents. It upheld a Texas-based federal judge's earlier injunction.
The ruling leaves in limbo the future of the program, called the Deferred Action for Parents and Americans, and promises by Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to go further than Obama to protect large groups of immigrants from deportation.
Clinton promised in May to expand Obama's executive actions if Congress does not overhaul US immigration laws. In October she also pledged to be "less harsh and aggressive" than Obama in enforcing immigration laws.
Clinton said on Tuesday she hopes the case gets a quick and fair hearing "so that the millions who are affected can stop living in fear of their families being broken apart."
The future of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally has been debated by Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Earlier this month Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, said if elected he would eventually end Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects from deportation immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
DACA, as the program is known, was seen as an administrative answer to the DREAM Act, legislation once supported by Rubio that would provide legal status to those young immigrants. To date, more than 720,000 young immigrants have been granted permission to live and work legally in the United States. That program is not affected by the appeals court ruling.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday the case was ultimately about the administration's authority to decide how to use its limited resources in immigration enforcement.