A federal judge refused late Tuesday to lift a temporary hold on President Obama's executive action seeking to shield up to 5 million immigrants from deportation.
U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen declined to stay his Feb. 16 decision, which granted a preliminary injunction to the 26 states that filed suit, led by Texas. The federal government wants the injunction lifted while it appeals the ruling to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Hanen issued two late-night orders -- one refusing to lift his injunction, the other detailing what he called the federal government's misleading statements. He ordered the government to provide more information by April 21.
A clearly annoyed Hanen said he would not throw out the government's pleadings, even though that was "perhaps merited based upon the government's misconduct." But, he continued, that would not "be in the interests of justice or in the best interest of this country." Instead, the issues "should be decided on their relative merits according to the law."
The latest ruling came after several testy exchanges with prosecutors, who took 15 days to inform the judge that federal officials had granted 108,000 applications for deferred action after Obama announced the program in November. That delay, Hanen wrote in the Tuesday night order, "was neither prompt nor fully candid."
At issue, lawyers for the federal government say, is confusion over a pair of Obama's immigration actions.
Obama said on Nov. 20 that he would use his executive authority to protect millions of immigrants from the threat of deportation. Texas and 25 other states, mostly controlled by Republican governors, went to court to block its implementation.
That program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, would affect more than 4 million people who have lived in the United States for at least five years and are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
It would offer three-year work permits to parents who qualify, and would not be open to recent arrivals or to people with serious criminal records.
DAPA also included a provision to change a 2012 action, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. And this is where the confusion began.
The DAPA executive action included expanded deferred action for qualified DACA applicants, from a two-year reprieve to three years. Although 26 states were suing to block DAPA, federal government lawyers allowed DACA applicants to get a three-year reprieve.
More than 100,000 of them did.
Hanen, at times visibly angry in the hearings, wasn't informed of the accepted applicants for weeks after the suit began and threatened to sanction the Justice Department if he found that government lawyers had misled him about the rollout of the immigration actions.
"The court expects all parties, including the government of the United States, to act in a forthright manner and not hide behind deceptive representations and half-truths," Hanen wrote Tuesday night.
Lawyers for the 26 states said the states suffered "irreparable harm" when federal officials granted the applications for deferred action.
Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton hailed Hanen's rulings.
"The Obama Administration's blatant misrepresentations to the court about its implementation of expanded work permits for illegal immigrants under the president's lawless amnesty plan reflects a pattern of disrespect for the rule of law in America," Paxton said in a statement.
"As the judge has affirmed, once put into effect, President Obama's executive amnesty program will be virtually impossible to reverse. Any premature implementation could have serious consequences, inflicting irreparable harm on our state, and this ruling is key in determining the extent to which the federal government did not present the full truth in this case."