Executive Branch

Federal judge questions trust in Obama, threatens Justice Department sanctions on immigration action

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A federal judge who blocked executive action on immigration last month threatened to sanction the Justice Department on Thursday as he questioned whether the government misled him by expanding deportation deferrals.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville, Texas, said that, “like an idiot,” he believed Justice Department lawyer Kathleen Hartnett in January when she said the government would not implement executive action on immigration before his ruling.

The Los Angeles Times described Hanen as “visibly annoyed,” while the Associated Press called the hearing “sometimes testy.” The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) and the Courthouse News Service also covered the hearing.

The Obama administration recently disclosed that it extended immigration deferrals from two to three years for immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children, according to the Wall Street Journal story. A lawyer challenging President Obama’s executive action argued the expansion was, in effect, an implementation of the president’s new immigration plan, which also offered deferred deportation to immigrants who had lived here at least five years and were the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

“Can I trust what you say?” Hanen asked Hartnett. “Can I trust what the president says? It’s an easy question, yes or no?”

Hartnett answered in the affirmative. She said the government is trying to do the right thing, and there was confusion over whether the expansion was covered by the suit. Hanen said the three-year reprieves were covered, according to the Los Angeles Times account.

Hanen, who is considering a request for early discovery of internal immigration documents, gave the government 48 hours to respond.

Twenty-six states had sued to block executive action on immigration, but Texas was the only state to obtain standing by presenting evidence on how it would be affected by executive action, Courthouse News Service says.

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