The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing an order from a federal judge to release details of benefits provided to over 100,000 illegal immigrants under President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered the Justice Department to produce a list of individuals who received deportation deferrals from the 2014 DHS directive in a decision made May 19. The decision was made after learning DoJ had not disclosed that approximately 100,000 illegal immigrants had received three-year deferrals from deportation between November 20, 2014 and March 3, 2015. The Justice Department urged Hanen to stay his order in a brief released late Tuesday.
The 2014 DHS directive expanded a program that allowed individuals who immigrated illegally to the United States as children to obtain work permits and renewable two-year deferrals from deportation. The 2014 directive expanded this program, allowing the parents of such individuals to obtain work permits. It also increased the deferral period from two years to three.
Judge Hanen says the Justice Department assured him the 2014 program would not be implemented until February 2015, affording him time to evaluate the case. However, the federal government began issuing deferrals months earlier, in November 2014.
“They knowingly continued to hide this conduct for months and only admitted it once they realized the number of violations exceeded 100,000,” Judge Hanen wrote in his order. He also ordered Justice Department attorneys to attend a legal ethics course.
Government lawyers claim that producing a list of individuals who received deferrals and other benefits before March 3 imposes an undue burden on the Department of Homeland Security and jeopardizes the privacy interests of individuals appearing on the list.
“Finally, the balance of equities and the public interest, including the interests of tens of thousands of innocent third parties whose personally identifying information DHS has been ordered to produce, also weigh in favor of a stay,” the Justice Department’s brief read.
Judge Hanen’s order instructs that the list, once produced, would not be available for public review.
“Obviously, this list, once filed, will remain sealed until a further order of this Court,” his order reads.
As Hanen is unlikely to rescind his own decision, the Department of Justice will almost certainly appeal the order to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
A three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit previously ruled that the president’s executive action on immigration is unconstitutional. In January, the Supreme Court announced that they would review the case. No ruling has yet been issued.
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