WASHINGTON -- A group of Republican lawmakers are urging an appeals court not to let the Obama administration expand deportation relief and work authorization for undocumented immigrants with long-standing ties to the U.S.
The Republicans -- Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) -- along with the the American Center for Law and Justice filed an amicus brief on Wednesday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking it not to lift an injunction on President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions as courts consider a case from 26 states aiming to block the programs. The administration has asked the court to consider lifting the injunction in the meantime.
"We must do all that we can to stop President Obama's lawlessness," Goodlatte said in a statement.
Republicans have attempted to go after Obama's executive actions in Congress, but without much success. An effort to include measures to block the policies as part of funding for the Department of Homeland Security took the department to the brink of a shutdown, and eventually failed. Obama has said he won't sign any bills that would end his executive actions, though it's unlikely they could get past Senate Democrats and to his desk in the first place.
While congressional Republicans are likely to continue harping on the executive actions -- Cruz is leading a hearing on the issue Thursday -- the lawsuit from the states may be opponents' best chance to kill the policies. The same group of GOP members, along with others, filed another amicus brief on the lawsuit in December.
A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction last month that prevented the administration from going ahead with immigration policies announced by Obama in November 2014 for undocumented immigrants. As it stands, the government is unable to begin issuing work authorization to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, or expand an existing program that allows those who came to the U.S. as children to stay and work on a temporary basis.
The judge, Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, Texas, sided with the states in his injunction that the programs would be "virtually irreversible" if allowed to begin.
The administration went to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last week to ask that the injunction be lifted. The Justice Department filing argued that keeping the programs from going forward hurt the government's ability to prioritize immigration enforcement. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia filed an amicus brief saying the policies should be allowed to move forward, and that continuing to block them would be harmful to their economies and public safety.
The amicus brief from the Republican lawmakers rejects the idea that the injunction interferes with enforcement.
"Appellants remain free to maintain border security, as well as to enforce every immigration law passed by Congress and signed by the President, and all immigration regulations, except the DHS Directive that created" the executive action policies, the filing reads.
It also says allowing the immigration executive actions to go ahead would "endanger fundamental constitutional principles at stake in this case."