Judge Who Halted Obama's Immigration Reforms Suspends Punishments for Feds, Immigrants

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who successfully halted President Barack Obama's executive-action immigrant reforms last year, temporarily suspended the order he issued in May that contained two punishments for federal attorneys who defended the reforms and undocumented immigrants alike.

In May, Hanen accused the attorneys of making intentionally misleading statements in his court about one of Obama's programs, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, intended to shield thousands of young undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation. To apparently slap them on the wrist, Hanen ordered them to attend ethics courses. Then—because apparently that wasn't enough—he ordered the Department of Justice to release a giant list of private information belonging to more than 50,000 undocumented immigrants whom Hanen claimed erroneously benefited from DACA expansion during a period in late 2014 and early 2015 when they shouldn't have, thanks to a mistake by the feds.

The 50,000 immigrants are those residing solely in the 26 states that have sued the Obama administration for Obama's 2014 executive actions that expanded DACA and implemented its sister program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. (The Supreme Court will decide whether they can go forward this summer.) Hanen's order would've meant that information such as their home addresses, immigration status information, and "all available contact information" would be conveniently at Hanen's fingertips, readily available to law enforcement agencies should they provide Hanen a legitimate reason for needing it.

Hanen's decision to issue a stay on that order comes just days after four young undocumented immigrants came forward to ask the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt Hanen's request for their personal information from going through.

Apparently, the backlash got to Hanen quicker than the immigrants' court filing got to the Fifth Circuit judges.

“Though we’ve always known that this order is out of bounds and should never take effect," said Karen Tumlin, legal director at the National Immigration Law Center, "we are glad that Judge Hanen has at least decided to wait for the Supreme Court to provide some guidance in this case before taking a step that would cause irreversible harm to thousands of immigrant youth.”

On Friday, two of the immigrants who would have been affected by his actions said that, amid a political climate in which anti-immigrant hate speech fills the air waves, they feared the information could get into the wrong hands.

One of them asked, “The clear question that comes to mind is, how much longer will we allow a biased judge to have this chilling effect on our country?” 
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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn