A Federal judge threatened Thursday to sanction the Justice Department if he finds that government lawyers misled him about the rollout of President Obama’s plan to shield up to 5 million people from deportation.
U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, visibly annoyed, confronted a U.S. deputy assistant attorney general over previous government assurances on the timing of the program.
He asked why he shouldn’t grant a discovery request for internal federal immigration documents — a request filed Thursday by 26 states that are suing over Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Hanen ordered a freeze on the Obama plan on Feb. 16 in response to the lawsuit, which accuses the administration of overstepping the president’s authority.
At a one-hour hearing in Brownsville, Hanen gave the Justice Department 48 hours to file a motion in response. He said he would then rule promptly on whether to require the government to produce documents concerning applications under Obama’s deferred action program.
The judge said that if he decided to impose sanctions, “the taxpayers of the  states would end up paying their own damages.”
Hanen’s barbed comments left little doubt that he sympathized with lawyers for the 26 states, who said they suffered “irreparable harm” when federal officials granted more than 100,000 applications for deferred action after Obama announced the program Nov. 20. He said government lawyers had assured him that “nothing was happening” regarding the applications.