A federal appeals court in New Orleans was set to hear arguments Friday over President Barack Obama's plan to protect from deportation as many as 5 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.
Announced in November, the plan was harshly criticized by Republicans in Congress as an executive overreach. Texas and 25 other states challenged the plan in federal court, and U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, granted a preliminary injunction on Feb. 16.
Arguments in the Obama administration's appeal were set for a two-hour hearing before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Supporters of the plan, including members of labor unions and immigrants' rights groups, planned to rally outside the courthouse Friday morning and hold a news conference after the hearing.
The panel is not expected to rule immediately. Either side could appeal a loss to the full 5th Circuit or the Supreme Court — a process that will eat up time with only about a year and a half left in Obama's second term.
Justice Department lawyers arguing for the administration have said Texas had no legal standing in the matter. Texas' solicitor general countered that granting legal status to immigrants will be costly for Texas, with the state incurring costs for providing drivers' licenses, schooling and health care to immigrants who are granted permission to stay.
Obama's executive orders were intended to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The other major part would extend deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years.
Two members of the panel hearing arguments Friday were on a panel that voted in May to not allow the plan to proceed while the appeal is pursued.
In the May 26 ruling, Judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod said the federal government lawyers are unlikely to succeed on the merits of the appeal. Judge Stephen Higginson disagreed in a lengthy dissent.
Friday's panel includes Smith, Elrod and Judge Carolyn Dineen King.