In denying a motion for an injunction to halt an impending deportation on Tuesday, Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a blistering concurring opinion targeting President Donald Trump's immigration policy.
“We are compelled to deny Mr. Magana Ortiz’s request for a stay of removal because we do not have the authority to grant it,” writes Judge Reinhardt. “We are not, however, compelled to find the government’s action in this case fair or just.”
The case in question revolved around Andres Magana Ortiz, an undocumented immigrant who arrived in the United States illegally in 1989. Judge Reinhardt argues that while Magana Ortiz has two prior convictions for driving under the influence, he has exhibited “good moral character” in the fourteen years since his last conviction.
Magana Ortiz had previously been granted a stay of removal, but the government reversed course under the Trump administration:
After his immigration case concluded with a decision to remove Magana Ortiz because of his 1989 illegal entry into the United States, he filed for a stay of removal in September 2014. That stay was granted, allowing him to remain with his family and pursue available routes to legal status. On November 2, 2016, Magana Ortiz filed for an additional stay of removal. Without any explanation, the government on March 21, 2017 reversed its position, and ordered him to report for removal the next month.
“All Magana Ortiz asked for in requesting a stay was to remain in this country, his home of almost three decades, while pursuing such routes to legal status,” Reinhardt explains, highlighting that Magana Ortiz is currently exploring legal routes to citizenship. “It was fully within the government’s power to once more grant his reasonable request. Instead, it has ordered him deported immediately.”
Judge Reinhardt excoriates the current administration for pursuing deportation in this specific case, forcing him to make a decision that will separate Magana Ortiz from his family:
In doing so, the government forces us to participate in ripping apart a family. Three United States citizen children will now have to choose between their father and their country. If they leave their homeland with their father, the children would be forced to move to a nation with which they have no connection. All three children were born in the United States; none has ever lived in Mexico or learned Spanish. Moving with their father would uproot their lives, interrupt their educations, and deprive them of the opportunities afforded by growing up in this country.
“Subjecting vulnerable children to a choice between expulsion to a foreign land or losing the care and support of their father is not how this nation should treat its citizens,” Judge Reinhardt writes.
In the closing paragraphs of his opinion, Judge Reinhardt sets his sights clearly on President Donald Trump:
President Trump has claimed that his immigration policies would target the “bad hombres.” The government’s decision to remove Magana Ortiz shows that even the “good hombres” are not safe. Magana Ortiz is by all accounts a pillar of his community and a devoted father and husband. It is difficult to see how the government’s decision to expel him is consistent with the President’s promise of an immigration system with “a lot of heart.” I find no such compassion in the government’s choice to deport Magana Ortiz.
Finally, Reinhardt admits that it is beyond his power to do anything to prevent Andres Magana Ortiz's impending deportation:
We are unable to prevent Magana Ortiz’s removal, yet it is contrary to the values of this nation and its legal system. Indeed, the government’s decision to remove Magana Ortiz diminishes not only our country but our courts, which are supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of justice. Magana Ortiz and his family are in truth not the only victims. Among the others are judges who, forced to participate in such inhumane acts, suffer a loss of dignity and humanity as well.
In one final sentence, Judge Stephen Reinhardt makes clear how he views President Donald Trump's current immigration policy: “I concur as a judge, but as a citizen, I do not.”