A Texas federal judge hearing a lawsuit that challenges an immigration executive order by the Obama administration announced this week that he would postpone a decision ordering government lawyers to attend an ethics course from taking effect until August 22.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen had ordered the Justice Department lawyers last month to take ethics training after concluding that they had misled him on the question if the White House had begun executing one of the measures in the immigration initiative.
After President Obama first announced an executive order granting deportation relief to millions of immigrants in 2014, a coalition of 26 Republican-controlled states—led by Texas—filed a lawsuit against the federal government to block the program.
Prior to the injunction, government lawyers had told Judge Hanen that a core component of the Obama executive order, which expands an existing program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), had not yet taken effect. DACA provides protection against deportation to young undocumented immigrants who had entered the United States illegally as children.
The judge, however, learned from federal officials that they had offered relief to more than 108,000 immigrants, granting them 3-year reprieves from removal and giving them work permits. This was after Justice Department attorneys had insisted that these reprieves were granted as part of 2012 guidelines not covered by the injunction.
If approved, President Obama’s executive orders would provide protection to more than 4 million immigrant parents of children legally living in the United States and allow them to work in the United States by applying for 3-year permits. Not surprisingly, several Republican lawmakers opposed the proposal, calling it a breach of the separation of powers, pointing out that only Congress has the right to legislate such a sweeping action. A ruling is currently pending in the Supreme Court after the high court heard arguments from the opposing parties.
Hanen issued a one-page order after this week’s hearing in Brownsville Texas, writing he would delay the order until another hearing in August, at which time he would also decide over the Justice Department’s suggestion of “an appropriate sanction for the misrepresentations.”
Local media outlets report that Judge Hanen requested the Justice Department attorneys to provide any form of evidence—e.g. affidavits—to prove he had not been deliberately misled on the issue. In response, the Justice Department insists none of its lawyers had acted in bad faith or had the intent to deceive the judge during court proceedings.
In his ruling, Judge Hanen had also ordered the federal government to provide a list of the immigrants mistakenly granted with 3-year reprieves, saying the names could be given to officials in the states where the immigrants reside. The judge’s decision to delay his order also postpones the disclosure of this information.
Obviously, this landmark ruling could have adverse effects on the fight for immigrant rights. To learn more about this issue, talk to the immigration law team of Lyttle Law Firm today. Contact us at (512) 215.5225 to schedule a consultation.