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White House Fights to Block Deportation of Illegal Immigrants

FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2015 photo, people line up at a California Department of Motor Vehicles office to register for drivers licenses in Stanton, California, where 59,000 driver's licenses were issued to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is fighting another round in a legal and political squabble over deporting illegal immigrants.

White House officials said they will ask for a "stay" of a judge's order to overturn Obama's executive actions that would protect many immigrants from legal action.

The stay would keep the executive actions in place until the issue is appealed to a higher court.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration expects to win on appeal because "there is a solid legal foundation for the president to take the steps that he announced to reform our broken immigration system."

The executive action bypassed Congress and angered many Republicans who took the issue to court.

Executive turnabout

On Tuesday, the White House had said the Justice Department would comply with, but also appeal against a ruling handed down by a judge in Texas that temporarily blocked the president from protecting as many as five million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

That ruling came in the midst of a contentious fight in the U.S. Congress over funding for the country’s homeland security agency, which oversees immigration procedures and border controls. The department's funding is due to expire late next week.

A spending measure already approved by the House would block Obama’s immigration changes, but the legislation has been stalled in the Senate, where efforts by the chamber's Democratic Party minority bloc has so far thwarted the Republican majority.

Most Democrats continue to support Obama’s expansion of immigrant rights. The House minority leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, said the president’s immigration actions are similar to those undertaken by previous U.S. presidents, including Republicans.

States opposed

Judge Andrew Hanen ruled in favor of 26 states, including Texas, that had filed a lawsuit seeking to permanently stop Obama's order. The states argued that the president had exceeded his constitutional authority and would impose undue financial burdens on them.

The president's executive order included expansion of a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

The program was to begin receiving applications on Wednesday. The president's order would also protect parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for at least five years, and had committed no serious crimes.