A union that represents thousands of federal immigration officers is raising alarm after the U.S. government ordered supplies to create millions of blank work permits and green cards, touching off speculation that the Obama administration may be preparing executive action on immigration.
The Associated Press reported last week that the new federal contract proposal from the Homeland Security Department would allow the government to buy enough supplies to make as many as 34 million immigrant work permits and residency cards over the next five years. Though the Obama administration now says the proposal is unrelated to any executive action, the move raised concerns the administration is preparing for a surge of work permit applications from illegal immigrants.
Kenneth Palinkas, the president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, said in a press release Monday that he believes the move indicates the administration is planning to enact “massive unilateral amnesty” after the midterm elections.
“…If you care about your immigration security and your neighborhood security, you must act now to ensure that Congress stops this unilateral amnesty,” he said. “Let your voice be heard and spread the word to your neighbors. We who serve in our nation’s immigration agencies are pleading for your help – don’t let this happen. Express your concern to your Senators and Congressmen before it is too late.”
However, the Obama administration on Tuesday claimed the order is unrelated to any pending executive action. USCIS claims the order pertains only to the Senate-passed immigration bill which never became law.
"Solicitations of this nature are frequent practice for USCIS contracts and allow the Agency to be prepared for fluctuations in the number of immigration applications received, which can arise for a number of reasons," spokesman Christopher S. Bentley said in a statement. "For this particular solicitation, USCIS analyzed, during the spring of 2013, the pending comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate to determine the surge capacity needed. This estimate had nothing to do with immigration relief actions planned by the president."
Last week, though, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was less clear. Asked if the order was tied to a forthcoming presidential policy, Earnest said: "I would not suggest that that is an indication that that's what we're preparing to do." He said those trying to "read into" the orders for cards "are a little too cleverly trying to divine what the president's ultimate conclusion might be."
But he repeatedly would not say whether the orders were unrelated to a move by the president, claiming these kinds of decisions "are not micromanaged by the White House."
The USCIS union represents 12,000 officers of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for processing visas and other immigration papers. Palinkas said federal immigration officers are already struggling to complete their mission, and the new contract indicates things could get worse.
“Whether it’s the failure to uphold the public charge laws, the abuse of our asylum procedures, the admission of Islamist radicals, or visas for health risks, the taxpayers are being fleeced and public safety is being endangered on a daily basis,” he said.
The U.S. government produces about 3 million work permits and residency identification, known as green cards, annually. The new contract for at least 5 million cards a year would provide the administration with the flexibility to issue far more work permits or green cards even if it chose not to exercise that option.
Obama announced earlier this year that if Congress didn't pass immigration legislation, he would act on his own. After twice postponing a final decision, he said as recently as last month that he would hold off on executive actions until after November's midterm elections.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.