© Getty Images
The Obama administration granted about 100,000 expanded work permits to undocumented immigrants under the president’s controversial executive actions before a federal court blocked the administration from implementing the new policies, new court documents show.
The Justice Department said that the administration immediately began processing renewals of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by Obama in 2012, under new guidelines that extended work permit grants from two years to three. Those people had originally applied under the old rules, but renewals processed after Nov. 24 were granted the extension.
The administration had said it would not be accepting applications under the new guidelines until Feb. 18 or processing them before March 4. And when a federal judge ruled Feb. 16 to temporarily halt the implementation of those actions, many assumed that the administration had not yet acted on any of those policy changes.
The Justice Department’s advisory document, filed with the court Tuesday, admits that “may have led to confusion about when USCIS had begun providing three-year terms of deferred action to individuals already eligible for deferred action under 2012.”
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the House Rules chairman, criticized Obama for being “disingenuous” throughout the creation and implementation of his executive actions.
“His hasty actions show that he not only disregards the legislative process but he has no respect for our judicial system either,” he said in an emailed statement.
“The president knew that his use of executive fiat to grant blanket amnesty was illegal so it does not surprise me that he fast-tracked his lawless plan in an attempt to get ahead of a judicial ruling that was inevitable.”
But Homeland Security officials pushed back and said that the agency’s announced its intent with a November memo authored by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. That memo directs the department to extend work permits for renewals to three years by Nov. 24.
“There was no attempt to hide it in any way in any of the pleadings that were filed on our side, and the secretary’s memo is crystal clear,” an official told The Hill.
“We realized in retrospect when we looked at this one thing that there may have been some confusion, so we wanted to make sure that we brought it to the court’s attention."
The Homeland Security official portrayed the change as a procedural move to help cut down on workload and one that hadn’t been challenged by opponents of the president’s immigration actions.
“If you look at the briefing that was filed by the 26 states, that was an issue that didn’t even come up," the official said.
“No one argued about that issue.”
The administration is currently appealing to overturn the federal court’s decision and allow Homeland Security to move forward with the president’s immigration actions. It’s also arguing that the court doesn’t have a right to fully halt the programs, only to halt its effects within the court’s jurisdiction.