WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's policies to allow some undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. hit another snag on Monday.
Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas, announced that rather than granting or even rejecting the administration's request to move forward with Obama's 2014 executive actions on immigration, he will make no additional rulings until after March 19.
Hanen had initially halted Obama's deportation relief policies through a preliminary injunction last month, as he considers a lawsuit brought by 26 states that contends the policies are unconstitutional.
Obama administration attorneys sought a stay that would allow the policies to go forward in the meantime, and had asked Hanen to rule on their request by the end of the day Monday.
However, the lawsuit has been complicated by allegations that the federal government misled the states about whether the 2014 immigration policies had gone into effect. The Justice Department filed a document last week informing Hanen that about 100,000 undocumented immigrants had been granted three-year work permits between Nov. 24 and the judge's order. Those immigrants qualified for the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was not blocked by Hanen's injunction. But the 2012 program only granted two-year permits -- the plan to expand them to three years was announced in November as part of Obama's executive actions.
For that reason, the 26 states in the suit are now arguing that the administration had implemented some of the policies well before the scheduled February 2015 start date.
The administration did not go ahead with a planned expansion of DACA to other age groups, or with a new program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.
In his order Monday, Hanen said the federal government should "be prepared to fully explain" the issue.
"Due to the seriousness of the matters discussed therein, the Court will not rule on any other pending motions until it is clear that these matters, if true, do not impact the pending matters or any rulings previously made by this Court," he wrote.
At the same time, other states are coming to the administration's defense. A dozen states plan to file a request this week for the appeals court to lift the injunction and allow the immigration policies to go into effect, the Washington state attorney general told The Washington Post on Monday.
The state of Washington previously led an amicus brief in support of the executive actions, joined by 11 other states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 30 mayors, along with the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, signed onto a separate amicus brief in January saying the actions are beneficial, both for the economy and for public safety. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson thanked the National League of Cities at their meeting in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
He said the lawsuit and injunction put the administration in an "untenable position," but added that "this is what appeals courts are for."
"What we must say to people in your communities who I've personally met with now: Don't lose hope," Johnson said. "As Martin Luther King said, 'The arc of the moral universe is long but it always bends toward justice.' Those who in this country struggle for citizenship, struggle to be something more than a second-class person, know that history is on your side."