The Justice Department urged the U.S. Supreme Court Friday to take up the case of President Obama's immigration plan that would shield up to 5 million people from deportation.
The government moved unusually quickly, filing its appeal just a week after a federal appeals court agreed with Texas and 25 other states opposed to the plan. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the administration illegally tried to put the policy into place without getting public comment first.
By acting so promptly, the administration is hoping it can get this issue heard and decided during the current Supreme Court term. If the justices were to uphold the law, President Obama could begin to enforce it while he's still in the White House.
Texas and the states now have 30 days by which to file a response, likely urging the court not to take the case.
"If left undisturbed," the Justice Department said of the appeals court ruling "it will allow states to frustrate the federal government's enforcement of the nation's immigration laws.
"It will force millions of people — who are not removal priorities under criteria the court conceded are valid, and who are parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents — to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families. And it will place a cloud over the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as children, have lived here for years, and been accorded deferred action."
The plan, announced exactly one year ago today, would allow people here illegally to remain if they have children who are citizens or permanent residents. And it would expand the program that lets young people stay who were brought here as children.
The administration argued that the policy simply shifts enforcement priorities. With 11 million undocumented migrants here, the Justice Department said, there's no way to deport them all. To the government insisted that the policy was intended to focus on criminals and potential terrorists.
The appeals court, however, said the policy would not merely turn the government's enforcement attention away from the bulk of those here illegally. It said the heart of the plan would give those people benefits, including eligibility for Social Security and work permits. Texas claimed such a move would impose a big cost on the state for all the new drivers licenses it would have to issue.
The Supreme Court could hear the case this term if the justices agree by late January to grant review.