Religious leaders and immigration advocates expressed support for the Obama administration's plan to seek a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court after an federal appeals court struck down the president's program to protect more than 4 million immigrants from deportation.
The Nov. 9 ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a Texas-based federal judge's injunction against President Barack Obama's executive order to protect from deportation immigrants who came to the U.S. as children or the immigrant parents of children are U.S. citizens or legal residents of this country.
Obama's executive action expands a 2012 program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and creates the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.
The day after the circuit court's 2-1 ruling, the Justice Department announced it would appeal it to the Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, 19 faith-based organizations filed an amicus brief, or friend of the court brief, with the 5th Circuit advocating for those seeking relief from deportation. A group of religious leaders associated with the brief called the Nov. 9 ruling unjust and urged the high court to take up the case.
"We trust that upon appeal the Supreme Court will recognize the 5th Circuit's error in this case. Most importantly, the United States has a legal interest and a moral duty to preserve the unity of families," said Jesuit Father Bill Kelly, secretary for social and international ministries at the Jesuit Conference.
The priest also said in a statement that Obama's executive order was a way to use his "discretion to prioritize immigration enforcement resources, while offering a process by which some of our 11 million undocumented communities members may apply for a temporary reprieve from deportation."
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby Network, said the circuit court's decision denies "family unity to millions of Americans."
"Our nation is a country of immigrants, and it is time for political leaders to recognize that reality. While we urge the Supreme Court to make this issue a priority, we know that executive and judicial action is only a temporary fix." Sister Simone, a member of the Sisters of Social Service, said a broader step would be for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to bring comprehensive immigration reform up for a vote.
Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., known as CLINIC, similarly said the appeals court ruling will "prevent countless immigrant families from remaining safely together in the United States." She said that while the political and legal battle is played out "real lives are at stake and families continue to be torn apart."