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Judge's Order for Personal Data Looms for Immigrants

Latinos protest U.S. immigration policies in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (iStockphoto)
Latinos protest U.S. immigration policies in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (iStockphoto)
July 5, 2016

PHOENIX - The recent Supreme Court ruling on immigration has rights groups increasingly concerned over a federal judge's order for officials to turn over personal information on 50,000 undocumented immigrants. The order, put on hold until an August 22nd hearing, could affect many of those who registered for protection from deportation under programs created by President Obama's executive orders.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel for MALDEF, who will be representing the immigrants at that hearing, said the demand for personal information has little to do with the actual case before the court.

"It is intended to be a punishment for what Judge Hanen believed to be misconduct by the federal government's lawyers," he said. "So the question is whether that's an appropriate sanction on lawyers, at all, and it quite clearly is not."

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen ordered the data release in May as one of several sanctions against attorneys in a lawsuit by 26 states challenging the Obama program. Immigrant rights groups such as Promise Arizona and others say in light of the Supreme Court's June 23 ruling striking down parts of Obama's programs, the information could be used to deport people on the list.

Saenz said immigrants who registered had a reasonable expectation that their name and address would be kept confidential. He adds that while the order only affects a small number of applicants, releasing the data would set a dangerous precedent.

"I suspect that we will continue to urge him to conclude that this is not an appropriate sanction on the government because it actually does hurt innocent third parties," he added.

Saenz said the demand that the attorneys hand over the information is unconstitutional, and if the order is upheld, MALDEF plans to immediately appeal it to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to avoid any harm to the immigrants on the list.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ