Justice Department to SCOTUS: Rule On Immigration—And Fast

If the Supreme Court doesn’t rule soon on Obama’s immigration programs, he won’t be able to implement them before leaving office.

With President Obama's action running out of time to temporarily protect up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation, supporters of the measure to keep families together rally at the Supreme Court on Friday.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Justice Department on Friday formally asked the Supreme Court to rule on President Obama’s immigration programs, as soon as possible.

A lower court’s order barring implementation of the immigration program warrants “immediate review,” the Justice Department said, calling the ruling an “unprecedented and momentous” intrusion into the federal government’s authority over immigration policy.

“The court of appeals’ judgment enjoins nationwide a federal policy of great importance to federal law enforcement, to many States, and to millions of families with longstanding and close connections with this country,” the Justice Department said in its brief.

The Justice Department wants the Supreme Court to intervene, and to rule quickly, because that’s the only way Obama will get to carry out the program, which would defer deportation for undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens.

If the high court doesn’t take the case, doesn’t issue its ruling before the 2016 elections, or doesn’t side with the White House, Obama will not be able to implement the deferred-action policy before he leaves office.

A group of 26 states, led by Texas, challenged the immigration policy in court almost as soon as it was announced. And the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the states, ruling that Obama’s executive actions exceeded his authority as president and should have been subject to notice-and-comment rulemaking.

The Justice Department argued in its brief Friday that the Homeland Security Department has well-recognized authority to decide whom to deport, and that Texas shouldn’t have been able to bring its lawsuit in the first place.

“If left undisturbed, (the 5th Circuit’s) ruling will allow States to frustrate the federal government’s enforcement of the Nation’s immigration laws. It will force millions of people—who are not removal priorities under criteria the court conceded are valid, and who are parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents—to continue to work off the books, without the option of lawful employment to provide for their families,” the Justice Department wrote.