Judge’s Embarrassing Mistake Nullifies Order Blocking Trump’s Refugee Ban
by Kevin Daley
A federal judge in Los Angeles may have goofed his order barring the U.S. government from canceling valid immigration visas in connection with President Donald Trump’s refugee policy.
District Judge Andre Birotte of the Central District of California issued an order that forbade federal officials from “removing, detaining, or blocking the entry of Plaintiffs, or any other person from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen with a valid immigrant visa.”
The wording of his ruling is somewhat off base, and compromises the thrust of his order. A Department of State memorandum issued on Jan. 31 — several days before Birotte’s order — in conjunction with the president’s executive order rescinded all visas held by citizens of countries targeted in the ban. Therefore, there most likely were few, if any, “valid immigrant visas” for Birotte to protect, as all “valid immigrant visas” had been canceled days earlier.
“It appears [the judge] was not aware that visas at issue have already been canceled and that ordering the government to respect existing visas is, therefore, beside the point,” Jonathan Meyer, a former deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security, told Politico. “Similarly, he has enjoined cancellation of the visas when perhaps he would have ordered their reinstatement if he knew they had already been canceled. This type of confusion tends to proliferate on all sides when actions are rushed and litigation is taking place in multiple locations simultaneously.”
Before becoming a federal judge, Birotte served as U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, where he managed an office of several hundred prosecutors. He presided over major prosecutions, including the case the U.S. government pursued against cyclist Neil Armstrong for drug trafficking and money laundering. The case was eventually dismissed. He also taught at USC Gould School of Law. He is a graduate of Tufts and Pepperdine University School of Law.
He was appointed to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama in 2014. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate that same year.
Birotte himself is the son of Haitian immigrants.
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