The government will not ask the Supreme Court to review a judge's decision that put on hold President Obama's executive action on immigration, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
The decision came one day after a federal appeals court panel refused to lift a Texas judge's injunction that kept the sweeping immigration plan from taking effect.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction on Feb. 16 that halted Obama's executive action, which could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. More than two dozen states sought the injunction, arguing that Obama's executive action was unconstitutional.
The U.S. government on Feb. 23 asked Hanen to lift his injunction while it appealed his ruling against the executive action to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Hanen denied the request, and the U.S. government appealed. That appeal was denied on Tuesday.
Two judges on the appeals court "chose to misinterpret the facts and the law in denying the government's request for a stay" on the temporary hold, White House Spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in a statement Tuesday.
Even so, spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said the Justice Department would not seek a stay of Tuesday's decision from the Supreme Court. Instead, he said, the Justice Department will now focus on defending the merits of the executive action itself in an appeal that will be argued the week of July 6 before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The Department of Justice is committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible in order to bring greater accountability to our immigration system by prioritizing deporting the worst offenders, not people who have long ties to the United States and who are raising American children," Rodenbush said in a statement. "The department believes the best way to achieve this goal is to focus on the ongoing appeal on the merits of the preliminary injunction itself."
The Obama administration plan has been denounced by Republicans as an example of executive overreach. Mr. Obama has argued that the action was necessary because of inaction by Congress. Earlier this year, the president promised that he and his administration would be "as aggressive as we can" in defending the executive action.
The executive action announced in November remains on hold after the appeals court panel on Tuesday refused to allow it to take effect immediately.
Along with Texas, the states seeking to block Mr. Obama's action are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.