A Trump administration order to deport a man who entered the country illegally nearly three decades ago and became a respected businessman in Hawaii was "inhumane" and "contrary to the values of the country and its legal system," a federal judge wrote Tuesday in an unusually impassioned opinion.
"President Trump has claimed that his immigration policies would target the 'bad hombres,'" 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt said. "The government's decision to remove Magana Ortiz shows that even the 'good hombres' are not safe."
Reinhardt said the 9th Circuit lacked authority to block the March order to deport Ortiz to Mexico. Still, he said it was difficult to see how the order was consistent with President Donald Trump's promise of an immigration system with heart.
Reinhardt said Ortiz, who came to the U.S. in 1989, was well-established in Hawaii's coffee farming industry, paid his taxes and had three U.S. citizen children from whom he would be torn away.
Nicole Navas, a U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman, said the agency declined comment on the case.
Reinhardt is considered to be one of the most liberal judges on the 9th Circuit and his rulings often place him on the side of immigrants and prisoners. Reinhardt wrote a 2012 opinion striking down California's gay marriage ban.
He also wrote a 1996 opinion that struck down a Washington state law that prohibited doctors from prescribing medication to help terminally ill patients die.
Reinhold joined the nation's largest federal appeals court in 1980 after being nominated by President Jimmy Carter.
His opinion in the Ortiz case came as the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with a Mexican immigrant who faced deportation after he was convicted of having consensual sex with his underage girlfriend.
The justices ruled unanimously that Juan Esquivel-Quintana had committed a crime under California law, but his conduct did not violate federal immigration law.
Also Tuesday, a divided 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld a law that bars people who are in the country illegally from avoiding deportation if they are habitual drunks. The law holds that those people do not have good moral character.
The ruling overturned a decision by a smaller 9th Circuit panel that included Reinhardt that said alcoholism is an illness, not a moral defect.
The rulings come against a backdrop of stepped up immigration enforcement by the Trump administration. U.S. immigration arrests increased nearly 40 percent in early 2017 from a comparable period last year, according to figures provided by immigration officials. However, actual deportations were down from late January to late April compared with a year ago.
Ortiz, 43, won a reprieve from deportation in 2014 and was seeking legal status on the basis that his wife and children are U.S. citizens when the government "without any explanation" ordered him in March to report for removal the next month, according to Reinhardt.
Ortiz has at least one conviction for driving under the influence, but Reinhardt said that was not the basis for his removal order.
Ortiz appealed to the 9th Circuit in an effort to block the removal order. Now, he will be returned to Mexico and face a 10-year bar on his return, the judge said.
A call and email to Ortiz's attorney, James Stanton, was not immediately returned.
Reinhardt is not the first federal judge to criticize an immigration move by the Trump administration.
A federal appeals court in Maryland earlier this month refused to reinstate the president's revised travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries, with judges in the 10-3 majority calling the administration's action discriminatory and its reasoning nonsensical.
In another rebuke, a federal judge in San Francisco blocked the administration's attempt to withhold funding from "sanctuary cities" that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities.
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