Obama Administration Appeals Judge's Ruling, Seeks Stay to Lift the Injunction Blocking Immigration Programs

On Monday, the Department of Justice filed an appeal of the district court's decision blocking rollout of the President's new immigration programs (commonly referred to as "expanded DACA and DAPA").  The federal government also sought an emergency stay of the injunction pending appeal.  The Administration's decision to request an emergency stay is a bold move and vitally important to their ability to rollout the immigration programs given the lengthy appeals process.  The government's main argument is that blocking the programs -- one of which was set to go into effect about twenty-four hours after the judge's ruling -- is causing irreparable harm and that because the legality of the programs is highly likely to be upheld, the injunction is unnecessary.

Legally, either the district court or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit can stay the injunction pending consideration of the appeal.  If either court lifted the stay, the Administration could begin accepting expanded DACA applications by mid-March.  However, the conventional wisdom is that the district court will deny the federal government's request to stay the injunction.  Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Judge Hanen would lift his own injunction.  If the district court denies the motion, DOJ is expected to request a stay with the Fifth Circuit later this week.  The Fifth Circuit presents its own set of challenges for the White House given the conservative make-up of the court and the political dynamics involved.   If the Fifth Circuit denies the government's request for an emergency stay, the Administration can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would likely issue a decision on whether the stay should be lifted in a matter of weeks. 

At the same time the litigation surrounding the emergency stay of the injunction unfolds, the Justice Department's appeal of the district court decision concerning whether the procedural  requirements under the the Administrative and Procedures Act (APA) applied in this case will move forward.  A decision on the appeal is expected within four to eight months.  It is also important to note that Judge Hanen only ruled on one of the claims brought by the plaintiffs, and while the appeals process plays out, the judge could decide to rule on the remaining claims in the case causing further uncertainty surrounding the President's immigration programs.