BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) - A day after the House of Representatives voted to block funding for the president's executive actions on immigration, 20 Republican states laid out their case against the policies before a federal judge.
Led by Texas, 20 red states and four Republican governors sued the Obama administration's immigration officials in early December.
At issue are executive actions Obama announced Nov. 20 to increase the number of undocumented immigrants eligible to stay in the United States, with a focus on keeping families intact.
In particular, the states are challenging Obama's decision to not deport, for the remainder of his term, undocumented people who have lived in the United States since Jan. 1, 2010, who can pass background checks, and who entered as children or are the parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Those who qualify may also be eligible to get a federal employment authorization card that includes their photograph, which would allow them to get a Social Security card and a state driver's license.
The states claim the directives suspend immigration laws for 4 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
The programs are formally known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA).
DACA will take effect around Feb. 18, and DAPA in mid-May, Justice Department attorney Kathleen Hartnett said Thursday during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville.
At the hearing, Texas Deputy Solicitor General Andrew Oldham argued that the Republican states have standing to sue because the initiatives will cause "direct harm to the states by having to spend more money to provide identification."
Oldham also said the initiatives will trigger a spike in illegal immigration.
"DAPA will increase the size of unauthorized population and it will make it more attractive for unauthorized immigration to migrate to the U.S," Oldham said.
Oldham tried to persuade Hanen to grant the Republican states an injunction against Obama's initiatives.
The effort is the courtroom front of a two-pronged Republican assault on the policies.
On Wednesday, the Republican-majority House of Representatives passed a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security until Oct. 1, which included amendments to cut funding for Obama's immigration actions.
Hartnett, the Justice Department attorney, told Judge Hanen on Thursday that "DAPA is designed to be self-funded by fees required by the applicants."
In court filings, the United States claims the red states' case "fails at the threshold, because plaintiffs lack standing," and the state's claim that the initiatives will harm them are supported only by "multiple layers of speculation."
To obtain a preliminary injunction, the states must show they will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted.
It is now up to Hanen, a President George W. Bush appointee, to decide whether Texas and its co-plaintiffs made their case to have the initiatives blocked.
A late arrival to the plaintiffs' team is Tennessee. During Thursday's hearing, Oldham said the Volunteer State wants to join the lawsuit.
Hanen directed plaintiffs to file a supplemental pleading adding Tennessee by Jan. 23. The judge said he will not rule on the injunction request before Jan. 30.
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