A U.S. judge in Texas suspended his order to force federal authorities
to turn over to the court personal information about immigrants who were
given safeguards against deportation under an Obama administration executive order.
In the decision on Tuesday that could affect tens of thousands of immigrants,
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in the border city of Brownsville stayed
his order pending the results of a status hearing on Aug. 22.
The sanctions were ordered on May 19 by Hanen, who ruled in February 2015
that President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration were
outside the bounds of the president’s authority.
Hanen at that time ordered the Department of Homeland Security to prepare
a state-by-state review of immigrants who were given three years of safeguards
from deportation, instead of two, under Obama’s immigration action.
The Justice Department had asked Hanen in an emergency motion filed in
May to put a hold on the sanctions while it sought a review from the 5th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Civil rights groups backing the immigrants saw the decision as a win in
their legal battle backing the executive order in the case that has reached
the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It is an important victory, but not a permanent fix. We will continue
to fight for a ruling that fully safeguards immigrants’ privacy
rights,” said Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the American
Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
The ACLU also filed a motion for a stay, saying the immigrants could face
permanent injury if their personal information was released, and that
neither the court, nor the states suing the U.S. government had any legitimate
interest in the personal information.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office, a lead plaintiff suing the Obama
administration over the immigration policy, said it would not be commenting
on the judge’s move.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment on the judge’s
move. The government is separately
challenging a sweeping set of ethics sanctions Hanen imposed on lawyers at the department.
Nina Perales, the attorney who argued on Tuesday for the immigrants implicated
by Hanen’s order, was content with his decision to put it on hold.
“Today we argued, successfully, that no legitimate basis exists for
punishing innocent immigrant youth in order to address what the court
considers to be misconduct by attorneys for the United States,”
she said in an email to colleagues after the hearing.
The Supreme Court, for its part, is expected to rule on the larger dispute
— the legality of Obama’s executive actions on immigration
— before the end of June.
The Huffington Post’s Cristian Farias contributed to this report.
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