SpaceX wins reprieve from US lawsuit alleging anti-immigrant bias

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge has blocked the U.S. Department of Justice from pursuing an administrative case accusing Elon Musk’s SpaceX of illegally refusing to hire refugees and asylum recipients.

U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera in Brownsville, Texas said in a written order late Wednesday that administrative judges at the Justice Department who hear cases involving anti-immigrant bias were not properly appointed.

Olvera blocked the department’s case, which was filed in August, from moving forward pending the outcome of SpaceX’s September lawsuit claiming the administrative case violates the U.S. Constitution.

The Justice Department and SpaceX did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

The Justice Department claims that from at least 2018 to 2022, the rocket and satellite company routinely discouraged asylum recipients and refugees from applying for jobs, and refused to consider or hire them.

In job postings and public statements, SpaceX wrongly claimed that under federal regulations known as export control laws, it could hire only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, known as green card holders, the Justice Department said.

The department cited a June 2020 post on X, formerly called Twitter, by Musk that said: “U.S. law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are advanced weapons technology.”

SpaceX has denied wrongdoing and said that it has hired hundreds of non-U.S. citizens.

In its lawsuit, the company claims that administrative judges are appointed by the U.S. attorney general but have powers that should be reserved only for officials appointed by the president.

Olvera on Wednesday agreed. Because federal law does not give the attorney general the ability to review the judges’ decisions, the Constitution requires that they be appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the judge said.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Jan Harvey)