WASHINGTON — One day before hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants were to begin applying for work permits and legal protection, administration officials on Tuesday postponed President Obama’s sweeping executive actions on immigration indefinitely, saying they had no choice but to comply with a federal judge’s last-minute order halting the programs.
The judge’s ruling was a significant setback for the president, who had asserted broad authority to take executive actions in the face of congressional Republicans’ refusal to overhaul the immigration system. White House officials have defended the president’s actions as legal and proper even as his adversaries in Congress and the states have accused him of vastly exceeding the powers of his office.
In a decision late Monday, Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, in Brownsville, ruled in favor of Texas and 25 other states that had challenged Mr. Obama’s immigration actions. The judge said that the administration’s programs would impose major burdens on states, unleashing illegal immigration and straining state budgets, and that the administration had not followed required procedures for changing federal rules.
Mr. Obama vowed Tuesday to appeal the court ruling and expressed confidence that he would prevail in the legal battle to defend his signature domestic policy achievement. “The law is on our side, and history is on our side,” he declared.
White House officials said the government would continue preparing to put Mr. Obama’s executive actions into effect but would not begin accepting applications from undocumented workers until the legal case was settled. That could take months. In the meantime, the president urged Republican lawmakers to return to negotiations on a broader overhaul of immigration laws.
“We should not be tearing some mom away from her child when the child has been born here and that mom has been living here the last 10 years minding her own business and being an important part of the community,” he said.
White House officials said the Justice Department was reviewing whether to ask an appeals court to block Judge Hanen’s ruling and allow the executive actions to proceed. But for now, the judge’s ruling could be a crushing disappointment to members of the immigrant community, who have spent much of the last two years pressuring Mr. Obama to act decisively to prevent deportations that separate immigrant families, including many with children or spouses who are living in the United States legally.
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