Ignoring a deadline that the Obama administration attempted to impose, the federal judge handling the twenty-six states’ challenge to the new government immigration policy said he would not rule for the time being on the plea to let that policy go into effect. Instead, District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Brownsville said, he wants to explore the states’ new claim that government lawyers misled him.
Citing “the seriousness” of that claim, the judge said he “will not rule on any pending matters” until it was clear that the allegations do not have an impact on the case. The key “pending matter” is the request by the government that he postpone his ruling blocking the new deferred-deportation policy while the Justice Department appeals.
The Department had told the judge last week that, if he did not act on that request by the end of the business day today (Monday), it would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit with a delay request. This was the second time the government had attempted to set a deadline for the judge to act; earlier, he ignored such a request and gave the states a week, instead of two days, to answer the delay request.
In his order Monday afternoon, Judge Hanen made no mention of the time limit the Department had sought to lay down. He went ahead with his announcement that he was not going to act on that, or any other pending matter, while the states’ new challenge was awaiting his response.
On March 3, Justice Department lawyers had filed an “advisory” with Judge Hanen, saying that government officials in the time period before the judge issued his temporary enforcement ban had begun implementing some parts of the new policy, which is expected to affect some four million undocumented immigrants.
Two days later, the states that have sued to overturn the deportation policy responded to the government’s revelation, by asking permission to conduct some questioning (“discovery”) of government officials to find out just what the government had been doing. The states said that Justice Department officials have directly assured the judge that the policy was not being put into effect, and now, the states charged, it appears that that was not true.
The judge has not yet ruled on the states’ new request, but he set a hearing on it for March 19 at 1:30 p.m. That schedule, plus his remark about not acting on pending matters in the meantime, meant another ten-day delay, at a minimum, in his action on the government’s plea for permission to move ahead during the appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court.
Judge Hanen also ordered the government to respond to the states’ new discovery motion, and said federal lawyers “shall be prepared to fully explain” to him “all of the matters addressed in and circumstances surrounding” the revelations the government had made on March 3.