U.S. Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson must appear in a Texas federal court to face potential contempt charges for allegedly flouting a judge’s orders to freeze the administration’s immigration initiative.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen late yesterday ordered Johnson and White House lawyers to appear next month in Brownsville, saying they failed to fix violations of an earlier order blocking President Barack Obama’s executive actions loosening immigration restrictions.
Hanen said he is “shocked and surprised at the cavalier attitude the government has taken” in failing to recover work permits mistakenly issued to at least 2,000 undocumented immigrants after he ordered the program halted in February. Government lawyers told Hanen last month they were working to recover the permits and correct federal databases to prevent the immigrants from using the papers. The mistakenly issued permits authorize holders to work legally in the U.S. for three years instead of two, as was allowed under a previous program.
At the hearing, Hanen recommended that DHS send agents door-to-door to swap out papers and direct agency programmers to update all databases immediately.
Hanen said Tuesday that two months have passed since DHS notified him of its violations and still hadn’t fixed them. That refusal could be construed as deliberate rather than accidental, he said.
The government may avoid the Aug. 19 contempt hearing if it provides “very compelling evidence” of full compliance with the judge’s order by the end of this month, Hanen said.
Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment on Hanen’s order or say whether Johnson will personally appear in court.
The case is Texas v. United States, 1:14-254, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Brownsville).