Judge puts on hold ethics course for DOJ lawyers in immigration executive action case

A federal judge in Texas who's presiding over a lawsuit filed against President Barack Obama's immigration executive action said Tuesday he will put on hold until Aug. 22 a ruling he had issued ordering Justice Department attorneys to attend an ethics course.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen last month had ordered the training for the attorneys, saying they misled him about whether the Obama administration had begun implementing one of the proposed measures.

After a group of 26 states filed a lawsuit in late 2014 challenging Obama's proposed measures, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction that halted them. Before ordering the injunction, Justice Department attorneys told Hanen one key part of Obama's actions, an expansion of a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, hadn't taken effect.

Federal officials later revealed they had given more than 108,000 people three-year reprieves from deportation and granted them work permits under the program. Justice Department attorneys had previously insisted the reprieves were granted under 2012 guidelines, which weren't stopped by the injunction.

Obama's proposed executive actions could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation and make them eligible to work in the United States. Many Republicans oppose the actions, saying only Congress has the right to take such sweeping action. A ruling on the lawsuit, led by Texas, is pending from the U.S. Supreme Court after the case was argued before the high court in April.

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In a one-page order issued after Tuesday's hearing in the South Texas city of Brownsville, Hanen wrote that he would revisit the issue at the August hearing, including any suggestions from the Justice Department regarding "an appropriate sanction for the misrepresentations."

"This (stay) puts us well beyond the Supreme Court ruling. I wish I could wave a magic wand to say, 'Let's have a do-over,' but there's not. Give me something to work with reasonably. Affidavits. Something," Hanen told Justice Department attorneys at the hearing regarding evidence showing that he was not deliberately misled, The Brownsville Herald (http://bit.ly/1ZvrzOP ) reported.

The Justice Department had said it "emphatically" disagrees with Hanen that any of its lawyers acted in bad faith or with the intent to deceive.

In his May ruling, Hanen had also ordered that federal officials provide a list of the individuals who were mistakenly given the three year reprieves and that this information could be given to officials in states where these immigrants live.

Hanen's decision on Tuesday also delayed the release of this information, which came as welcome news to immigrant advocates.

"The idea of handing (the states) the names and addresses and very private information of (immigrants) to do with what they would was very alarming to the DACA recipients," said Nina Perales, vice president for litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, who spoke at Tuesday's hearing.

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