President Obama’s new deportation amnesty will remain halted, a federal judge in Texas ruled Tuesday night in an order that also delivered a judicial spanking to the president’s lawyers for misleading the court.
Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who first halted the amnesty in February, just two days before it was to take effect, said he’s even more convinced of his decision now, particularly after Mr. Obama earlier this year said he intends for his policies to supersede federal laws.
Judge Hanen pointed to Mr. Obama’s comments at a February town hall when the president warned immigration agents to adhere to his policies or else face “consequences.”
“In summary, the chief executive has ordered that the laws requiring removal of illegal immigrants that conflict with the 2014 DHS directive are not to be enforced, and that anyone who attempts to do so will be punished,” Judge Hanen wrote.
“This is not merely ineffective enforcement. This is total non-enforcement,” the judge continued, saying that Mr. Obama’s own descriptions of how he is carrying out his policies have hurt his case.
Mr. Obama in November announced a new amnesty for illegal immigrant parents whose children are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. The amnesty could apply to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.
Texas and 25 other states sued to stop Mr. Obama, and Judge Hanen sided with them, finding that they suffered an economic harm from the policy, granting them standing in court, and then finding that the president broke the law in bypassing Congress to announce his policy.
The administration has appealed Judge Hanen’s ruling, but also asked the judge to reconsider.
On Tuesday the judge not only refused to reconsider, but also said the administration misled him when it said no part of the amnesty had been implemented, and the lawyers bungled their attempt to try to repair the damage by filing an “advisory” with the judge early last month.
Since November, the administration had been granting a three-year amnesty to illegal immigrant Dreamers under the new policy. That’s a year longer than the two-year program Mr. Obama announced for the Dreamers in 2012.
More than 100,000 applications were approved for the three-year amnesty between Nov. 21 and the February date when Judge Hanen halted the program.
“Whether by ignorance, omission, purposeful misdirection, or because they were misled by their clients, the attorneys for the government misrepresented the facts,” the judge said, adding that he was stunned the government waited for two more weeks after his ruling to inform him that the applications had already been processed.
Texas argues that had it known applications were being processed, it would have taken extra legal steps to try to halt the program earlier.
Judge Hanen said he may still issue sanctions against the government for misleading him — though he declined to strike the government’s pleadings, which would have essentially closed the case and granted victory to Texas.
The judge said that while that may be warranted, it would do a disservice to the weighty issues at stake in the case, including fundamental issues of presidential power.
Instead, the judge granted Texas’s request for limited discovery, demanding the federal government turn over documents showing its thought-process as it grappled with how to tell the court that it had already been processing applications.
In his decision upholding his injunction, meanwhile, Judge Hanen gave tremendous weight in his 15-page ruling to Mr. Obama’s February town hall when he described how he would carry out his policy and warned immigration agents of “consequences” to not following his dictates.
Just hours before Judge Hanen ruled, however, the appeals court that oversees him ruled in a separate challenge to Mr. Obama’s 2012 amnesty for Dreamers, and ignored the president’s warnings of consequences to agents. In that case, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that agents had ultimate discretion about whether or not to follow the new policies.
The Fifth Circuit next week will hold oral arguments on the government’s appeal of Judge Hanen’s ruling, and immigrant-rights activists said they hoped Tuesday’s ruling on the 2012 amnesty showed the court was inclined to allow Mr. Obama’s 2014 amnesty to take effect as well.