As members of the Texas Bar Foundation arrived in evening dress Friday night for an awards banquet, several dozen protesters, many in matching blue T-shirts, greeted them on the sidewalk outside the downtown Omni Fort Worth Hotel.
The protesters were unhappy with the foundation’s choice for its annual Outstanding Jurist Award, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville.
Hanen is the federal judge who in 2015 blocked implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive order intended to ease immigration rules. Hanen also angered Justice Department attorneys by ordering them, in scathing language, to take an ethics course.
“Everyone knows about Trump and Abbott, but Hanen is the real criminal here, and he doesn’t get the attention of a Trump or Abbott,” said Constance Luo, an organizer of the protest. “Putting a freeze on [Obama’s immigration orders] is criminal and is bringing discrimination to millions of families. So we’re here to call out Hanen.”
The Texas Bar Foundation, a nonprofit group that raises money for education and legal aid, was scheduled to present several awards Friday night. According to the foundation’s website, the nominee for the outstanding jurist award must have served on the bench for at least 10 years and exhibit an outstanding reputation for competency, efficiency and integrity.
Obama’s order blocked
In 2015, more than 1 million unauthorized immigrants in Texas were poised to apply for temporary programs that would have allowed them to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation. The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), which organized Friday’s protest, said about 5 million people would have received this relief nationwide.
Obama’s order called for the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects from deportation people who were brought to the U.S. as children without legal status.
Another program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) would allow the parents of U.S. born children and youngsters with legal status permission to seek work permits.
Texas and 25 other states sued the federal government in Hanen’s court. He ruled that the administration did not file proper notice of the proposal or gather public input, a violation of federal law, and he put the programs on hold. A panel of judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals agreed, and the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.
According to Luo, a Supreme Court ruling is expected by the end of June.
Karen Langsley, an attorney based in the Austin suburb of Dripping Springs, said she fully supported the demonstrators. The right to dissent is what makes America great, Langsley said.
“I don’t know many judges that don’t come from a position of privilege,” Langsley said.
Maria Victoria, a TOP demonstrator who traveled from San Antonio to participate, said that privilege blinds elected and appointed officials to the pain of the people they have sworn to serve.
Hanen is “winning this award because his dreams have been fulfilled,” Victoria said. “But what about our dreams? What about my daughter and my granddaughter? It’s not fair that they cut their dreams short.”
This includes material from Star-Telegram archives.