In a key test of President Barack Obama's efforts to overhaul immigration policy without congressional action, administration lawyers on Friday will ask a federal appeals court to lift an injunction blocking his executive actions seeking to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
A preliminary injunction — granted in February at the request of 26 states that oppose Obama's action — issued by Texas-based U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen halted programs unveiled in November that were intended to shield an estimated 4.7 million people from deportation.
Now a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the closely watched case. Hundreds of pro-immigration-reform advocates are expected to rally in front of the courthouse in New Orleans, where the arguments in the case will be heard.
It is unclear whether the Obama administration will prevail in the 5th Circuit, considered one of the most conservative courts in the country.
Obama announced the actions after the November midterm elections. He said at the time that inaction by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own.
The first of Obama's actions — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — had been set to take effect Feb. 18. The other major part would extend deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country since Jan. 1, 2010. That provision was slated to begin on May 19.
While the programs drew praise from many immigrant rights advocates, they angered many Republicans, who accused the president of executive overreach and granting amnesty to lawbreakers.
A coalition of 26 states, led by Texas, filed the lawsuit to overturn the actions. They argued successfully that Obama’s measure is unconstitutional and would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education.
Justice Department attorneys have argued that maintaining 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 actions.
The appellate court is taking up the case at a special hearing. It was uncertain how quickly the panel will rule.
Al Jazeera and wire services