By Seung Min Kim
May 19, 2016
A federal judge slapped an extraordinarily unusual order on Justice Department lawyers on Thursday, saying they misled him about details of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, ordering up names of certain immigrants here illegally and calling on the administration’s attorneys to take a legal ethics course every year.
In a sternly-worded order, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen argued that lawyers for the Obama administration were intentionally deceptive when they discussed how many work permits had been issued under Obama’s November 2014 immigration directive. The Supreme Court is currently weighing the legality of Obama's actions.
“The misconduct in this case was intentional, serious and material,” Hanen wrote in the 28-page order filed Thursday. “In fact, it is hard to imagine a more serious, more calculated plan of unethical conduct.”
At issue is a batch of work permits issued by the Obama administration to certain immigrants without legal status shortly before Hanen handed down his order blocking the implementation of Obama’s controversial executive actions. All together, Obama's actions could affect more than 4 million immigrants here without legal status.
The November 2014 directive not only granted work permits to undocumented immigrants who have U.S. citizen children, but it expanded a separate 2012 Obama program that gave those benefits to young immigrants who came to the United States illegally.
The 2012 program issued permits for two years at a time. But in 2014, the administration decided to bump that time period up to three years. That meant about 100,000 immigrants getting their work permits renewed after November 2014 got a three-year document, only to have the entire program put on hold by Hanen’s order in February 2015. The administration also disclosed that 2,700 work permits had been mistakenly issued, even after Hanen’s order.
The Obama administration worked aggressively to retrieve the 2,700 permits, using phone calls, texts, e-mails and even at-home visits to rescind them. For the 22 people with those permits that they couldn’t find, the administration ultimately stripped their deferred action status — which protects the immigrants from being deported and gives them work permits.
But in Thursday’s order, Hanen said the Justice Department knew since November 2014 that the administration was issuing the three-year documents, thus engaging in months of deceptive cover-up on those 100,000 work permits. The tone in Hanen’s order was also unusual: It quoted from the recent film “Bridge of Spies” and from the classic Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street.”
“The need to tell the truth, especially in court, was obvious to a fictional young Tommy Mara, Jr. in 1947,” Hanen wrote, referring to the “Miracle” character. “Yet there are certain attorneys in the Justice Department who apparently have not received that message, or more likely have just decided they are above such trivial concepts.”
Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said: “The Department strongly disagrees with the order.”
Hanen ordered the Obama administration to file a list of each immigrant who received the work permits in each of the states suing the government over the executive action — a coalition of about two dozen states led by Texas. The immigrants who received three-year permits between November 2014 and Hanen’s injunction have retained their documents.
The judge said “these are the individuals granted benefits during the period … in which the attorneys for the Justice Department promised that no benefits were being conferred.”
But the order is already alarming immigration advocates.
"Judge Hanen is demanding names and addresses of immigrant youth, and for what purpose? To set the stage for Donald Trump’s deportation force? This is a disgusting, outrageous, and gross abuse of judicial power,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice.
As for the ethics courses, Hanen laid out detailed instructions: Any Justice Department attorney who appears in a court, either state or federal, in one of the 26 states currently suing the Obama administration over immigration is required to attend a legal ethics course every year.
It has to be at least three hours of ethics training per year, and self-study or online courses won’t suffice.
“Throughout this case, the administration has struggled to provide accurate, reliable information regarding the scope of the president’s plan or even when it would be implemented,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “From the start, our lawsuit has been about asserting that one person cannot unilaterally change the law, and part of that is ensuring everyone abides by the rule of law.”
The broader legal case, Texas vs. United States, was argued at the Supreme Court in April. A decision is likely expected in June.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com