Many immigrant advocates were not surprised to see a conservative federal judge in south Texas issue an injunction late Monday temporarily blocking President Obama’s program to defer deportation for nearly 5 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.
U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen has developed a reputation as an outspoken judicial critic of the Obama administration's immigration policies.
“What we’re seeing with this judge is a trend of him advocating for policies that are targeting specifically immigrant communities,” said Cristina Jimenez, New York-based co-founder and managing director of the immigrant advocacy group United We Dream.
Hanen has written that “the court takes no position on immigration reform,” observing that it is “a subject laced with controversy and is a matter of much political debate which is not the province of the judicial branch.” But in rulings he has opined on the enforcement of immigration law.
The Department of Homeland Security, he once wrote, “should enforce the laws of the United States — not break them.”
Hanen has praised law enforcement on the border, but said, “Their hard work and dedication goes for naught when those in charge create policies that tie their hands.”
He hears cases in the Rio Grande Valley border city of Brownsville, which has seen a recent influx of Central American immigrant families and children crossing the border illegally.
In December 2013, he considered a case involving a smuggler the Border Patrol caught crossing into Brownsville with a 10-year-old Salvadoran girl. The agency later delivered the girl to her mother, who lived in Virginia illegally and had paid the smuggler $6,000.
Noting that it was the fourth such case he had seen in as many weeks, Hanen wrote, “This court is quite concerned with the apparent policy of the Department of Homeland Security of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating the border security of the United States.”
In August, he considered a case involving a Salvadoran immigrant Hanen had sent to prison for five years. After serving his time, the immigrant, who had a lengthy criminal record, had been released by an immigration judge in Los Angeles instead of being deported.
Hanen called the administration's deportation policy “misguided,” writing that it “endangers America” and is “an open invitation to the most dangerous criminals in society,” including Mexican drug cartel bosses.
On Monday, Hanen ruled in favor of 26 states that filed a lawsuit seeking to block the president’s executive action on immigration, saying Obama announced the new programs in November without meeting the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, which calls for a longer notification and comment period.
Hanen also ruled that the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, “was not given any ‘discretion by law’ ” to grant “removable aliens what the DHS itself labels as ‘legal presence.’ In fact, the law mandates that these illegally-present individuals be removed.”
Conservatives praised the judge’s latest ruling and reasoning.
Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal noted that his state joined the lawsuit against Obama’s executive action on immigration “because what the president is doing to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens is unconstitutional, and we’re glad the court agreed.”
Rep. Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican, said, “Judge Hanen’s ruling to halt the deportation amnesty program is an important first step to rein in this president’s latest attempt to trample the Constitution via abuse of executive action, and it’s proof that our government’s system of checks and balances works.”
Hanen still has to issue his final ruling on whether Obama's executive actions were constitutional, and the administration is appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit based in New Orleans.
Born in Elgin, Ill., and raised in Waco, Texas, Hanen graduated from Ohio's Denison University in 1975, majoring in economics and political science. He then returned to Texas, graduating from Baylor Law School at the top of his class in 1978.
He worked as a briefing attorney for Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Joe Greenhill for a year, then as a civil trial lawyer for more than 20 years in Houston. Hanen was first nominated as a federal judge by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, though the nomination lapsed. A decade later, he was nominated by President George W. Bush and unanimously approved by the Senate.
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