Civil Rights Groups Ask Appeals Court to Block Judge’s Immigration Order

Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera

By /Texas Tribune.

A coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups on Friday asked an appeals court to stop a federal judge’s order that requires the Obama administration to turn over the confidential information of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

The filing in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals by the National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project and the ACLU of Texas is on behalf of four undocumented immigrants, including two Texans. The immigrants say they are nothing more than pawns in a political game whose privacy will be breached if the order stands.

The petition is in response to a mandate issued May 19 by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville. Hanen concluded that the Obama administration intentionally misled his court during the trial over the president’s controversial 2014 executive action on immigration, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. An expanded version of a 2012 action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was also included in the suit, although the original 2012 action was not.

Hanen said the administration’s attorneys knowingly misrepresented facts about when applications for the program were accepted and how many undocumented immigrants benefited prematurely from the program by receiving three-year work permits under the preceding 2012 program. In response, Hanen ordered the department to turn over the names, addresses and immigration information of about 50,000 immigrants. Hanen ordered that the information be turned over next week. He also ordered the government’s attorneys who want to practice in the 26 states that filed suit to take ethics classes.

“With these outrageous demands, Judge Hanen has unfairly and unnecessarily dragged a group of blameless individuals into this politically driven lawsuit, potentially compromising their privacy and safety with no legal justification,” Karen Tumlin, the National Immigration Law Center’s legal director, told reporters during a conference call.

Texas and 16 other states sued the Obama administration in December 2014 after the executive action was announced; eight others eventually joined.

Hanen ultimately halted the executive action, and his decision was upheld twice by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. It has meandered all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule this month on whether the program can begin.

If nothing else, Tumlin added, the groups are asking the Fifth Circuit to put Hanen’s order on hold until after a decision has been rendered.

Friday’s filing comes after the Department of Justice filed its own request Tuesday for Hanen to halt his own order while the decision is being appealed.

The attorneys for the undocumented immigrants said they filed their own request directly to the Fifth Circuit because they are not parties in the original suit and because there is a time factor to consider.

“There’s just not enough time to really get relief in any other way except through a petition like this one,” said Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.