Feds Oppose Sanctions of Lawyers|in Obama Immigration Policy Case

      BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CN) — The government claims a federal judge overstepped his authority when he ordered Justice Department attorneys to take ethics classes in the legal fight over President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.
     In a May 19 order, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sanctioned Justice Department attorneys after finding that they lied to him about the government’s rollout of the policy changes.
     The Department of Homeland Security implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, and modified it in November 2014 to increase the number of people eligible.
     Hanen said he had examined the case record and transcripts from hearings in his Brownsville courtroom and found that, before he issued the injunction, Justice Department attorneys lied to him that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hadn’t issued any three-year permits under the new DACA guidelines, when in fact they had granted more than 100,000 three-year permits.
     Under the judge’s sanctions, all Justice Department attorneys who practice in either federal or state court in one of the 26 plaintiff states must take at least three hours of annual ethics trainin for the next five years.
     The George W. Bush nominee further ordered Justice Department attorneys to file under seal a list of all the people in the 26 plaintiff states who received three-year DACA benefits from Nov. 20, 2014 to March 3, 2015.
     The government asked Hanen on Tuesday to stay the sanctions.
     “The government submits that the record, when viewed as a whole, does not support a clear and convincing finding that the government or its attorneys deliberately withheld information, or otherwise sought to mislead the court or the plaintiff states,” government attorney James Gilligan wrote in a memo in support of the stay motion.
     The price tag to comply with the order, which would fall to U.S. taxpayers, makes the sanctions a nonstarter, the government claims.
     The ethics training could cost the Justice Department $8 million over five years, and it could cost $1 million to gather all the immigrant records that Hanen ordered to be handed over by June 10, according to the memo.
     “These losses of taxpayer funds and productivity can never be recouped,” the memo states.
     U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, was set to start taking applications for expanded DACA in February.
     The agency has not rescinded the three-year DACA permits that Hanen took issue with in his sanctions order, according to a spokeswoman.
     “USCIS has not taken any action on the approximately 108,000 three-year [employment authorization documents] that were approved and mailed by USCIS on or before the February 16, 2015, injunction date and that have never been returned or reissued by USCIS,” agency spokeswoman Carolyn Gwathmey said in an email.
     The Justice Department says in its memo that the plaintiff states have not shown any injury from the expanded DACA permits because “the third year still has not come into effect,” and any harm to the states “ultimately likely would be minimal given the ability of 2012 DACA recipients to request renewal of their terms whether they end after two or three years.”
     On the other hand, the government claims that requiring it to file the names and contact information of immigrants who received three-year permits “would be very likely to undermine individuals’ trust in DHS’s ability to maintain the confidentiality of personal information provided to it,” even though Hanen asked that the data be filed under seal.
     Citing the power the U.S. Constitution gives to the executive branch, government attorneys say Hanen’s order exceeded his authority and encroached on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s authority to oversee litigation involving the United States.
     The separation of powers has been invoked by both sides in the case. Texas claims the Constitution gives Congress sole power to make such changes to immigration policy.
     The Obama administration claims the government doesn’t have the resources to deport all undocumented immigrants, and says the president’s policies are common-sense solutions to keep otherwise law-abiding families together in the country.
     Hanen set a hearing on the government’s stay motion for June 7. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on an injunction that Hanen placed against the policies is expected later that month.
     The original DACA gave immigrants who came to the United States as kids, went to school and didn’t commit any serious crimes the chance to apply for two-year “lawful presence” rights to be free of deportation and obtain federal work permits.
     A Texas-led coalition of 26 states sued the federal government in December 2014 to block Obama’s executive actions that offered temporary relief from deportation to half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

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