HOUSTON — A federal judge in South Texas has temporarily blocked President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration, giving a coalition of 26 states time to pursue a lawsuit that aims to permanently stop the orders.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen's decision late Monday puts on hold Obama's orders that could spare from deportation as many as five million people who are in the U.S. illegally.
Hanen wrote in a memorandum accompanying his order that the lawsuit should go forward and that without a preliminary injunction the states would "suffer irreparable harm in this case."
"The genie would be impossible to put back into the bottle," he wrote, adding that he agreed that legalizing the presence of millions of people is a "virtually irreversible" action.
In a statement early Tuesday, the White House said it would appeal. It defended the executive orders issued in November as within the president's legal authority, saying the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress have said federal officials can establish priorities in enforcing immigration laws.
"The district court's decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision," the statement said.
The appeal will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
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 — was set to start taking effect Wednesday. The other major part of Obama's order, which extends 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.