First hearing in Abbott’s immigration lawsuit

No clue what will happen with this.


Saying South Texas is where the “rubber meets the road” on immigration issues, a federal judge used a folksy reference Thursday to note his court is the right place to decide whether to block President Obama’s recent order protecting millions of immigrants from deportation.

“Talking to anyone in Brownsville about immigration is like talking to Noah about the flood,” quipped U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in the first of what could be many hearings before a lawsuit is settled over Obama’s action.

Hanan, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, questioned both sides but gave no indication how he would rule. He gave the government until Jan. 30 to respond to the lawsuit.

But he cautioned against turning his courtroom into a venue to air grievances, something best done “over beer and nachos, but not in this courtroom.”


Abbott has said that Texas shouldered the financial brunt of Obama’s 2012 executive action on deferred action for children, which opponents say spurred a surge of immigration through the Rio Grande Valley, and cost the state tens of millions of dollars to send additional state troopers to police the border, along with added education and health care costs.

When Hanen pointed out that states are already responsible for covering those expenses under existing law, [deputy solicitor general Andrew] Oldham said the costs included more bureaucracy.

But Hanen questioned whether Obama had in fact taken executive action, noting that it was Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson who issued the six-page directive on the deferred action program. “It makes this even more lawless,” Oldham said in response.

See here, here, and here for the background. Judge Hanen had been publicly critical of Homeland Security’s policy of reuniting immigrant children with their parents, which he classified as DHS choosing not to enforce US immigration law. Judge Hanen’s words and the decision by Abbott and others to file the suit in his court have led some folks to fret that the fix is in. Judge Hanen addressed that perception himself during the hearing.

The judge acknowledged that he had criticized U.S. immigration policy in two prior rulings but pointed out that he ruled in favor of the federal government in both those cases.

We’ll see how it goes. I presume there will be another hearing after the feds file their response on the 30th, but beyond that the schedule is anyone’s guess. An earlier lawsuit against the federal government over this was briskly thrown out of court on grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing. That would be a fine result for this lawsuit, too.

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One Response to First hearing in Abbott’s immigration lawsuit

  1. mollusk says:

    I doubt that this is quite the exercise in forum shopping that some might think it is. The Brownsville Division has two judges; new cases are split 50 – 50 among them. Yes, Judge Hanen is a Bush appointee; however, Judge Tagle was appointed by Clinton. The Western District has some border divisions that are much more heavily salted with Bush appointees.

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