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Red States Ramp Up|Fight on Immigration

HOUSTON (CN) - The Republican assault on President Obama's executive order on immigration is ramping up in court, as a federal judge accepted an amicus brief from 27 congressmen who challenged it.

The lawmakers filed the brief to bolster a lawsuit filed in early December by 24 Republican-controlled states against the Obama administration's top immigration officials.

The states object to Obama's Nov. 14 announcement that he would "unilaterally suspend the immigration laws as applied to 4 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States," according to their lawsuit, filed Dec. 3 in Brownsville.

Obama's directive may apply to approximately 4 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful residents, who will not face deportation for the remainder of his term if they meet certain qualifications, such as clean records and proof of lengthy residency.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, a George W. Bush appointee, presides over the case.

Hanen accepted the 27 legislators' motion to appear as "friend of the court," meaning Hanen will admit their arguments to the case record.

The amicus brief was filed by the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), a conservative Christian law firm in Washington, D.C. It claims to represent 60,500 Americans who are members of its Committee to Defend the Separation of Powers.

"The Constitution vested in Congress the exclusive authority to make law and set immigration policies," the congressmen and ACLJ said in the brief, which was filed by the ACLJ's chief counsel Jay Sekulow.

"We will be adding additional members of Congress to the brief," Sekulow said in an email. "That additional list is still being finalized but we will add to the total of 27 members of Congress represented in the initial filing ... If and when there are opportunities to file additional amicus briefs at other stages of the litigation, we intend to do so."

The red state plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who are led by Texas, asked for a preliminary injunction against Obama's order.

A hearing on that motion is set for Jan. 9, 2015.

The ACLU of Texas said it disagrees with the plaintiffs' assertion that the president exceeded his authority.

"The president clearly had the authority to act," said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director of the ACLU of Texas.

"Our immigration laws, which were duly enacted by Congress, give the executive branch broad discretion to set its immigration enforcement priorities," Robertson said. "The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that authority, most recently in Arizona v. U.S., decided in 2012."

Robertson said the courthouse is not the place to work out these issues.

"This lawsuit by the state of Texas isn't going to do anything to fix the nation's broken immigration system," Robertson wrote in an email. "For that matter, the president's action, though a step in the right direction, provides only a temporary and partial fix. That's exactly why comprehensive congressional action is needed."

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