One year after immigration promise, Obama seeks Supreme Court backing

The Obama administration has requested the nation's high court to overturn previous rulings halting the president's plan to allow nearly 5 million illegal immigrants to live and work in the country legally.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
A woman chants as immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the US Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Obama's executive orders on immigration in Washington, Friday. The Obama administration on Friday asked the US Supreme Court to revive Mr. Obama's executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, saying Republican-led states had no legal basis to challenge it.

The Obama administration has formally asked the US Supreme Court to review President Obama’s executive action on illegal immigration.

The executive action plan has been stalled by a New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that maintained a lower court’s decision to halt the implementation of the plan. The Justice Department formally appealed to the nation's high court on Friday.

"A divided court of appeals has upheld an unprecedented nationwide injunction against implementing a federal immigration enforcement policy of great national importance, and has done so in violation of established limits on the judicial power,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and others wrote in a petition. “If left undisturbed, that ruling will allow States to frustrate the federal government’s enforcement of the Nation’s immigration laws.”

Obama’s executive order would allow nearly 5 million immigrants who are currently in the country illegally to live and work in the United States legally. The plan targets immigrants whose children are US citizens, who do not have criminal backgrounds, and have been in the US for years.

The legal challenge to the action was made by 26 Republican-governed states, led by Texas, which say Obama has overstepped his powers by working around Congress.

In its appeal, the Obama administration maintained that the states have no legal grounds to challenge the action.

Obama has said previously he was spurred to use his executive power to act on immigration after Congress failed to pass any significant immigration reform bills.

The White House has also shifted its policy on immigration enforcement to focus on illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds. About 231,000 people were deported in the last spending year, the fewest since 2006.

The tension over Obama’s proposed executive action to shield millions of immigrants from deportation mirrors the debate between presidential candidates.

Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton has said she would go further than Obama in shielding many types of illegal immigrants from deportation, while Donald Trump, a Republican candidate, has maintained he would deport all 11 million. Other Republican candidates have dismissed that idea.

An earlier executive order called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals shields children who have been brought to the country illegally from being deported is not being challenged.

This report includes material from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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