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ICYMI: Finding Judge Hanen: How U.S. v. Texas Began

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New America’s Voice Analysis Explores the Nativist Origins of the DAPA/DACA Lawsuit

In a new blog post published today, America’s Voice explores the nativist origins of the DAPA/DACA lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court. The piece focuses specifically on U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen and the politics that have characterized the case since its inception. The full analysis is available online here and is excerpted below:

On March 28th, lawyers for the 26 Republican Governors and Attorneys General, led by the State of Texas and its Attorney General Ken Paxton, filed their response brief in the lawsuit they initiated in December of 2014 to stop President Obama’s executive actions.  David Leopold did an analysis of that brief, noting, “Like everything else about this case, the brief is politically motivated and filled with confusion and obfuscation.”

But misleading the Supreme Court is hardly the brainchild of the Texas lawyers.  It started with U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, a sympathetic jurist whom the GOP plaintiffs sought out to hear their grievance against DAPA and DACA+. Hanen cynically took advantage of the confusing and complicated nature of immigration law and hinged a legally sloppy order blocking executive immigration guidance on the fallacy that the temporary deportation deferrals unlawfully bestowed upon undocumented immigrants what he termed “lawful presence status.”  Hanen’s misleading and legally unsupported concoction was later refined and repackaged by the 5th circuit appeals court as “lawful presence.”  Never mind that no such concepts exist in the law in the manner that Hanen (and later the 5th circuit) claimed they did. (View the America’s Voice report “A Coordinated Attack: Judge Hanen and the Nativist Lawsuit Against DAPA and DACA” here 

And so began a shamelessly political grievance, cleverly packaged by GOP politicians as a legal complaint. In fact, the very first decision the Texas Attorney General’s office made in the case proves that point.  Instead of filing the lawsuit in Austin or Washington DC (which even the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio did), the Republican politicians deposited the case in the courtroom of Andrew Hanen who’d earned his anti-Obama reputation by gratuitously excoriating the administration in unrelated criminal cases because he didn’t agree with the President’s immigration policies.

As expected Hanen dutifully blocked the President’s executive actions hours before they were set to begin going into effect. The administration had little choice but to appeal Hanen’s order to the 5th circuit appeals court which oversees Texas and which is considered by many to be the most conservative court in the land.  To no one’s surprise, the appeals court affirmed Hanen’s ruling.

Next month, Hanen’s order falls into the lap of Chief Justice John Roberts. How the Chief Justice resolves U.S. v. Texas will say a lot about his stated commitment to keep political battles out of the federal courts. And it will tell us whether the Roberts court will allow the judiciary to descend into political chaos…He’ll have to decide if the Judge hand-picked by the Texas GOP – and “Birther Queen” Orly Taitz – should even have jurisdiction to hear the brazenly political dispute that wound up in his court courtesy of the GOP and Judge Hanen.

Hanen seems to relish his newfound role as the Joe Arpaio of the federal judiciary. The big question is whether Chief Justice Roberts validates his badge.

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