Four Immigrants Really Don't Want a Federal Judge to Obtain Their Personal Info

click to enlarge The Supreme Court split on DACA and DAPA in June, keeping a temporary injunction against the programs in place. - Texas Organizing Project
Texas Organizing Project
The Supreme Court split on DACA and DAPA in June, keeping a temporary injunction against the programs in place.
Four immigrants who received deportation relief under President Barack Obama's executive immigration action for people who were illegally brought to the country as children say a federal judge's order requiring the Department of Justice to hand over private identifying information about them violates their constitutional right to privacy.

On May 19, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ordered the DOJ to turn over the names, addresses and other private identifying information for some 50,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients living in the 26 states that sued Obama over DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Childhood Arrivals (DAPA)—two immigration reform initiatives the Supreme Court split on in June, leaving a temporary injunction stopping the programs in place.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, Juan Escalante, of Florida, Angelica Villalobos, of Oklahoma, and two others who filed anonymously, ask Hanen to remove the requirement that the DOJ hand over all of that private information in its sanctions against the government's lawyers. A hearing on whether the DOJ will be forced to turn this sensitive information over is scheduled for August 31.

Hanen has admonished the DOJ's lawyers in the controversial case, accusing them of misrepresenting DACA work permits in his Brownsville court. At issue are three-year work permits the federal government issued between November 2014 and March 2015. Hanen says the government continued issuing the work permits after he ordered a preliminary injunction stopping DACA and DAPA in February 2015. He's so mad at the DOJ that he ordered government lawyers from all of the 26 states party to the lawsuit to take an annual ethics course for five years. However, his admonishment clearly effects more than just the lawyers he accuses of misconduct.

Justin Cox, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, says Hanen exceeded his authority. "But most importantly, he has not given sufficient weight to the privacy concerns of tens of thousands of individuals who have no connection to this case," Cox says. "Courts are allowed to sanction attorneys for misconduct, but this order is not aimed at the attorneys Judge Hanen said misbehaved—it's aimed at DACA recipients."

The young immigrants argue that their safety could be jeopardized if the DOJ is forced to hand the information over. If Hanen turns the information over to the states, which include Texas, Escalante, Villalobos and the two anonymous filers say they fear that they could be targeted by state government officials after they are outed as DACA recipients. And if that information somehow became public, they say they fear retaliation from people with anti-immigrant sentiment and could be susceptible to identity theft.

Escalante, who applied to DACA in 2012, did so with the understanding that his information would be kept confidential, so he says he provided every detail about his personal life the federal government asked for. "Judge Hanen's order seeks to undermine my constitutional right to privacy and could potentially expose personal information to individuals who may wish to retaliate against my family and me," Escalante says. "Private means private." Escalante's DACA renewal was approved in December 2014.

Immigration reform was a big part of what helped Obama get re-elected in 2012. In June of that year, he issued his DACA executive action. Two years later, he followed up with DAPA and expanded DACA, which was a tipping point for state's opposed to immigration reform, prompting the lawsuit. Both DACA and DAPA could have provided deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, but now their fate is up to Hanen. According to the Texas Tribune, Attorney General Ken Paxton is likely to ask Hanen to issue a permanent injunction against DACA and DAPA.


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