Conservative illusions about “King Obama” and the threat of undocumented immigrants have found support in the odd and contradictory legal reasoning of Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Now it’s up to higher levels of the judiciary to rescue the law from his manipulations.
The State of Texas went judge shopping for Hanen – skipping Austin and going to Brownsville – when it filed a lawsuit joined by 25 other states, including North Carolina, seeking to block President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The orders temporarily protected about 4 million people – mostly parents of citizens or undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children – from deportation and made them eligible to work in the United States.
The lawsuit’s original problem was that states generally don’t have standing to contest federal immigration policy. Nonetheless, Hanen accepted Texas’ specious claims that the cost of granting immigrants driver’s licenses was a hardship from which it was entitled to seek protection. Hanen ordered a preliminary injunction suspending the executive orders.
The injunction was upheld by a three-judge panel and an appeal was heard by the Supreme Court in April. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
Hanen, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, is now stretching the law further. Last week, he accused Department of Justice lawyers of misleading the court about granting protections from deportation. After Hanen issued his injunction, the Department of Homeland Security granted about 100,000 people three-year extensions of their temporary rights to live and work in the United States.
Those extensions were given under a program that was not part of the court challenge, but they should have been for two years, not three. The Obama administration has admitted the error and shortened the extensions.
But that was not enough to appease the judge. He has demanded the names and addresses of all undocumented immigrants who received the extensions, raising fears of deportation among that group. And he ordered, with dubious authority, that all Justice Department lawyers who want to appear in a state or federal court in any of the 26 plaintiff states must take an annual three-hour ethics course for the next five years.
Hanen’s grandiose demands come with a strong dose of irony in a case where the plaintiffs say the president overreached his authority.