Few outside of a Texas border town knew who Federal District Court Judge Andrew Hanen was until Monday night when he became a right-wing hero.
But this isn’t the first rodeo for the judge who delayed implementation of the Obama Administration’s executive order on immigration.
Hanen, a federal district court judge in Brownville, Texas, has a long history of taking a conservative approach to immigration issues in his courtroom, which is located just over a mile from the Mexican border.
The once obscure justice, whose only other previous claim to fame was serving as the President of the Houston Bar Association 15 years ago, has now made himself a right wing celebrity.
But his ruling on Monday is by far the most consequential that the George W. Bush appointee has ever issued.
He first gained notice for his willingness to entertain the arguments of landowners on the Mexican border who opposed the construction of a fence on their land by the federal government.
The Texas Observer described him in 2010 as “the only federal judge in the nation who forced Homeland Security to acknowledge landowners’ constitutional protections. In case after case, Hanen refused to rubber-stamp the condemnations and ruled that the government would have to provide ‘fair compensation’ for the land it was taking.”
But Hanen became a darling of immigration hawks in a 2013 order in which he vented against a decision made by the DHS not to deport a woman in the country illegally who had paid for her daughter to be smuggled into the United States.
While the smuggler was sentenced to jail, the government allowed the woman and her daughter to remain in the country under a 1997 settlement agreement.
Hanen was not pleased.
In an order he attacked the DHS’s “apparent policy ... of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating the border security of the United States” and compared the action to “taking illegal drugs or weapons seized from smugglers and delivering them to the criminals who initially solicited their illegal importation/exportation.”
Hanan’s order may not have been binding but it certainly electrified many conservatives as one of the most powerful statements from a federal judge on the issue.
On Monday he made good for conservatives again.
Hanan ruled in favor of 25 states that sued the federal government to stop the implementation of a 2014 executive order to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for “deferred action” from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This executive order enabled the undocumented immigrants to work legally and avoid deportation for several years—a move many Republicans have decried as “executive amnesty.”
Hanen didn’t reach a final decision but instead issued a preliminary injunction, which keeps DHS from enforcing the executive order until a final decision is issued.
His injunction though is not expected to last.
The federal government is expected to appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and is considered likely to get Hanen’s ruling overturned in that venue.
However, in the mean time, the decision to delay the executive order has major political ramifications in Washington DC where a potential partial government shutdown is looming over this issue.
But no matter what happens in this standoff, there is one clear winner: Judge Hanen.
Immigration reform is likely to remain a quagmire and Congress will continue to be dysfunctional. But, at least, Hanen will increase his Q-rating and become the most consequential federal judge ever to sit in the Brownsville Division of the Southern District of Texas.