DACA cause dealt major blow at hearing

Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald
Olga Bravo, left, and Ramona Casas, representing ARISE, a pro-immigration community based nonprofit, defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program during a planned rally Wednesday in front of the federal courthouse in Brownsville.

Posted: Wednesday, August 31, 2016 10:05 pm
BY Frank Garza Staff Writer

The Department of Justice dealt a major blow to the four immigrants who filed on behalf of more than 50,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients by stating it was well within U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen’s “equitable power” to request their private identifying information (PII).

Although a hearing on Wednesday afternoon ultimately ended up nowhere closer to a resolution to the case, the Justice Department agreed with Hanen that the sanctions imposed against them and the request for the PII were two separate issues.

“The Department of Justice gave (the PII) legs beyond the sanctions,” said Nina Perales, the vice president of litigation of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). “Right now, it is unclear whether the DoJ is suggesting accepting the potential disclosure of DACA recipients in exchange for vacating sanctions.”

In his May 19 order, Hanen said the government “knowingly acted contrary to its representations … on over 100,000 occasions” and misled both the court and the 26 states suing the Obama administration over DAPA.

He imposed sanctions on the Justice Department as a result, demanding all its lawyers take three-hour ethics classes annually.

James Gilligan, Justice Department special litigation counselor, apologized to Hanen for the mistakes the department made and said he hoped the 100-page affidavit submitted would make it clear it was never the government’s intention to misrepresent data.

“We attempted throughout the process to convince the court of the department’s good faith, but we recognize that we have failed to do so,” Gilligan said.

Gilligan said the Justice Department would be willing to offer a one-hour supplemental training for its civil division consisting of 1,000 attorneys within the next 90 days.

Although Hanen said he appreciated the gesture, he did not make it clear whether that would be satisfactory.

When Hanen suggested having a Justice Department lawyer hold onto the PII until the court needed it, Gilligan called it an “intriguing proposal.”

Regardless of who holds onto the information, the issues surrounding its disclosure remain the same, Perales said.

“If the government files for this decision (the proposal), the Jane Does would want to file something in response,” Perales said to Hanen.

Perales said MALDEF might have to file an emergency stay of motion in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in response.

Prior to the hearing, a group of individuals formed of several organizations – the American Civil Liberties Union, the Equal Voice Network, and United We Dream, to name a few – stood outside the courthouse chanting: “We are undocumented and we are unafraid and we are here to stay.”

Nahiely Garcia, a student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, was one of the youths present to voice her beliefs.

“This particular issue might not affect everyone here but it does affect us in a way that the community is hurting. These are our sisters hurting, our friends hurting, and our peers in the classroom hurting,” Garcia said.

Angelica Villalobos, one of the “fearless four” challenging Hanen’s request, said the district judge knows he has no right to the information.

“I am enraged by what he is doing. He has no right to take the focus off the adjudication away by filing such an extreme order,” Villalobos said. “He’s completely playing a political game and stalling the relief of the immigrants who need it.”

Villalobos said the case is scaring many immigrants, who are uncertain of what comes next.

If the Department of Homeland Security is required to disclose their information, that could be harmful in the wrong hands, she said.

“Judge Hanen needs to accept his community includes the DACA community, and if he really represents us, he needs to represent the undocumented youth too,” Villalobos said.