Houston (AP) – A coalition of states suing to stop President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration asked a federal judge Tuesday not to lift a temporary hold on the directives.
The 26-state coalition, led by Texas, said in a 22-page court filing to U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, that "there is no emergency need to institute this sweeping new program."
"It is not in the public interest to allow (the U.S. government) to effect a breathtaking expansion of executive power, all before the courts have had a full opportunity to consider its legality," the states said in their motion.
Hanen issued a preliminary injunction on Feb. 16 that halted Obama's action, which could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. The states sought the injunction, arguing that Obama's executive action was unconstitutional.
The U.S. government on Feb. 23 asked Hanen to lift his injunction while it appeals his ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Justice Department attorneys have said a stay of Hanen's ruling is needed "to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is able to most effectively protect national security, public safety, and the integrity of the border."
The states argued the preliminary injunction does not impair Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's "ability to marshal his assets or deploy the resources of" his agency.
The states also said lifting the stay would irreversibly harm them as they would spend millions of dollars in government benefits for individuals that they would not recover if they win their lawsuit.
The first of Obama's orders — 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, extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, was not expected to begin until May 19.
Obama announced the executive action in November, saying a lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own.
There was no deadline for a decision by Hanen.