US pushes to halt block on immigration measures

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US government Thursday asked an appeals court to lift an injunction preventing President Barack Obama's immigration reforms from going forward.

Obama had used an executive order to bypass a hostile Congress and drive through measures to protect about four million undocumented foreigners from deportation in November.

But in February, just before the measures were to go into effect, a Texas judge issued an emergency injunction until a trial on their legality could be held.

Twenty-six states - all but two Republican-governed - had pressed the Texas judge to intervene, claiming Obama had acted unlawfully.

The Obama administration Thursday asked the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which has authority over the Texas court, to suspend the injunction.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson "seeks to effectively prioritise the removal of aliens who have recently crossed the border, committed crimes, or threaten public safety and national security," the document said.

It added that it aimed to establish "guidelines for considering requests for temporarily deferring removal of other aliens who pose no such threats and have longstanding and close family ties to the United States."

Acting assistant attorney general Benjamin Mizer said in the document that the injunction "undermines the secretary's authority to enforce the nation's immigration laws."

Calling the district court's order "unprecedented and wrong" the 23-page Justice Department document added that "the Constitution does not entitle states to intrude into the uniquely federal domain of immigration enforcement."