Liberal Lion On Donald Trump's Least Favorite Court Lets Him Have It On Immigration

A judge on the federal appeals court that President Donald Trump isn’t fond of used his perch to condemn the administration’s punitive approach to immigration enforcement.

Stephen Reinhardt, 86, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter who is also the longest-serving member on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which Trump has often criticized, issued a sharp opinion Tuesday expressing his dismay over the move to deport a father of three with deep ties to Hawaii.

“The government’s insistence on expelling a good man from the country in which he has lived for the past 28 years deprives his children of their right to be with their father, his wife of her right to be with her husband, and our country of a productive and responsible member of our community,” Reinhardt wrote in a six-page screed that recounted the case’s unfortunate circumstances.

In Reinhardt’s telling, everything about Andres Magana Ortiz, the immigrant targeted for deportation, has the makings of the American dream: Despite entering the country without papers in 1989 from Mexico, he went on to become “a respected businessman in Hawaii and well established in the coffee farming industry.”

“He has worked with the United States Department of Agriculture in researching the pests afflicting Hawaii’s coffee crop, and agreed to let the government use his farm, without charge, to conduct a five-year study,” wrote Reinhardt, widely regarded as a liberal lion on the sprawling 9th Circuit. “In his time in this country Magana Ortiz has built a house, started his own company, and paid his taxes.”

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, is the longest-serving member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. (Photo: POOL New / Reuters)
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, is the longest-serving member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. (Photo: POOL New / Reuters)

And yet none of this, let alone that Magana Ortiz, 43, was raising a family or helping to pay for his daughter’s education at the University of Hawaii, was enough to persuade federal authorities to grant him a new stay of deportation ― which he had previously obtained in 2014 so that he could adjust his legal status through his wife, who’s a U.S. citizen.

Magana Ortiz’s latest effort to remain in the U.S., filed days before the November election, was denied in March, and he was ordered to turn himself in for deportation. He agreed to leave the U.S. in May, pending the outcome of his 9th Circuit appeal, according to court documents.

“It was fully within the government’s power to once more grant his reasonable request,” Reinhardt noted. “Instead, it has ordered him deported immediately.”

As a result of the government’s hardline stance, Magana Ortiz turned to the courts, hoping to get an order that would allow him to remain in the U.S. while his wife’s petition on his behalf was processed by immigration authorities. Under the law, however, there was nothing his court could do, Reinhardt said, which in turn became the catalyst for his judicial frustration.

“In doing so, the government forces us to participate in ripping apart a family,” he wrote, adding that Magana Ortiz’s deportation would leave his American children — ages 20, 14 and 12 — with an impossible choice.

“Moving with their father would uproot their lives, interrupt their educations, and deprive them of the opportunities afforded by growing up in this country,” Reinhardt continued. “If they remain in the United States, however, the children would not only lose a parent, but might also be deprived of their home, their opportunity for higher education, and their financial support.

“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,” the judge added.

The 9th Circuit, which is considering a Hawaii court ruling that blocked a revised version of Trump’s travel ban on certain Muslim countries, ultimately denied Magana Ortiz’s request, citing a lack of legal authority to intervene. The 9th Circuit is also the court that ruled in February against Trump’s original executive order restricting travel to the U.S. from the Muslim countries.

Reinhardt didn’t let the constraints on his court in the Magana Ortiz case constrain him from penning a sharp rebuke of the president and his government.

“President Trump has claimed that his immigration policies would target the ‘bad hombres,’” he said. “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.”

The judge’s entire opinion is worth reading. But it’s his closing paragraph that evokes the untold exasperation many judges and lawyers must feel in the area of immigration — where the law is deficient and often doesn’t match up with American ideals.

“We are unable to prevent Magana Ortiz’s removal, yet it is contrary to the values of this nation and its legal system,” Reinhardt wrote. “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.”

He concluded: “I concur as a judge, but as a citizen I do not.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.