Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Obama Defiant After Judge Blocks Immigration Order

"I'm confident that it is well within my authority," he says.

The White House was defiant Tuesday in the face of a Texas federal judge's order that suspended—at least temporarily—President Obama's sweeping executive action on immigration.

"This is not the first time where a lower-court judge has blocked something or attempted to block something that ultimately is going to be lawful, and I'm confident that it is well within my authority" to execute this policy, Obama told reporters in the Oval Office.

Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas, issued the injunction late Monday after finding that a coalition of 26 states challenging Obama's actions had made enough of a showing to warrant staying implementation of the deportation policy as the case moves forward.

The Justice Department said it would appeal Hanen's order to the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and White House aides said the government is considering asking for an emergency stay of the injunction. "We believe we are on very strong legal footing," Cecilia Munoz, Obama's top domestic policy adviser, said on a conference call with reporters.

Courts historically have granted the federal government wide discretion in regulating the flow of immigrants, and the administration has long contended that it has prosecutorial discretion under the law to set deportation priorities.

The ruling emboldened conservative opposition to Obama's policy on Capitol Hill, a dispute that threatens to shutter the Homeland Security Department when funding runs out at the end of the month. On Tuesday, DHS said that as a result of Hanen's order, it would not, as was planned, begin accepting applications from first set of illegal immigrants in a position to receive relief from deportation under Obama's executive actions. Ultimately, as many as 5 million illegal immigrants could benefit from the program.

"We expect to prevail legally, and we'll be ready to implement these programs when that happens," Munoz said.

Hanen, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, has been an outspoken critic of liberal immigration policies and had been viewed as likely to side with the plaintiffs. Legalizing the presence of millions of immigrants, he wrote, is a "virtually irreversible action."

Deporting 11 million people is unrealistic, so this "is something that we that we necessarily have to make choices about."