Today the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request filed by DOJ attorneys to lift an order banning the implementation of President Obama’s “executive amnesty” plan.

In their ruling, the court held that a previous injunction put in place by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen would remain in place—because the federal government was “unlikely to succeed on the merits of its appeal for the injunction.”

Translation? They’ve got nothing.

This isn’t a final ruling, but the 42 pages of the decision contain a thorough takedown of the challenge to the injunction, as well as a discussion on the merits of the states’ case against the federal government. When addressing the matter of the “public interest,” the Court sides decisively with the states (and teases out a major inconsistency in the government’s reasoning):

The last factor, “where the public interest lies,” id. (quoting Nken, 556 U.S. at 426), leans in favor of the states. The government identifies several important interests: It claims a stay would improve public safety and national security, provide humanitarian relief to the family members of citizens and lawful permanent residents, and increase tax revenue for state and local gov- ernments. To the contrary, however, and only by way of example, on March 16, 2015, the Attorney General, in opposing a motion to stay removal in an unre- lated action, argued to this very panel that “granting a stay of removal . . . would impede the government’s interest in expeditiously . . . controlling immi- gration into the United States.” Presumably, by referring to “the government’s interest,” the United States is referring to “the public interest.”

The states say the injunction maintains the separation of powers and ensures that a major new policy undergoes notice and comment. And as a prudential matter, if the injunction is stayed but DAPA is ultimately invalidated, deportable aliens would have identified themselves without receiving the expected benefits. The public interest favors maintenance of the injunction, and even if that were not so, in light of the fact that the first three factors favor the states and that the injunction merely maintains the status quo while the court considers the issue, a stay pending appeal is far from justified.

They also shot down the government’s “abuse of discretion” argument:

The government maintains that the nationwide scope of the injunction is an abuse of discretion, so it asks that the injunction be confined to Texas or the plaintiff states. But partial implementation of DAPA would undermine the constitutional imperative of “a uniform Rule of Naturalization” and Congress’s instruction that “the immigration laws of the United States should be enforced vigorously and uniformly.”130 A patchwork system would “detract[] from the ‘integrated scheme of regulation’ created by Congress.” Further, there is a substantial likelihood that a partial injunction would be ineffective because DAPA beneficiaries would be free to move between states.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott took to Twitter to share the news:

Texas has reason to smile—the press may not love this case, but the 26 states challenging Obama’s executive amnesty are in this for the long haul.

Politico explains the Administration’s options:

The Obama administration can now turn to the U.S. Supreme Court for a green light to proceed with the program, or Justice Department officials could wait until the 5th Circuit rules on the merits of U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen’s legal rationale for the injunction he entered in February. A different panel of the appeals court is expected to hear arguments on those issues in early July.

The three 5th Circuit judges deciding the case were randomly selected. Two of the three judges selected were appointed by Republican presidents, while the other was appointed by Obama.

Hanen ruled in February that Obama’s November actions expanding a program for illegal immigrants who entered the country as children and creating a new program for illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens violated federal law because they were not properly announced and opened for public comment before being put into effect.

This is a huge blow, and not just from a legal standpoint.

Earlier this year I wrote about the Administration attorneys’ disastrous confrontation with Judge Hanen. Hanen dressed down counsel after he discovered that they had misled him about the status of more than 100,000 applications for deferred action that had been initiated after Obama announced his amnesty program last November. Administration attorneys claim that they merely presented all the information about what had and had not been done to implement the program in a “confusing” manner, but Hanen didn’t buy it. He denied an emergency stay barring his previous injunction, which is how the case made its way to the 5th Circuit.

Many on the left doubted Hanen’s ability to fairly decide the case after the incident with the DOJ attorneys; today’s ruling by the 5th Circuit, however, vindicates both Hanen and his unwillingness to let the Administration run amok while challenges to the new immigration laws make their way through the courts.

We’ll keep you posted on what the Administration does next.

You can read the full ruling hereThis post has been updated.