POLITICS

Federal judge reacts skeptically to Justice Department handling of immigration order

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18:  Immigrants fill out forms for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), at a workshop on February 18, 2015 in New York City. The immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York holds weekly workshops to help immigrants get legal status under DACA to work in the United States. An expansion of the national program, scheduled for this week, was frozen by a ruling from a Texas federal judge. The Obama Administration plans to appeal the ruling and, if sussessful, DACA would allow legalization of up to two million immigrants who entered the United States before they were age 16.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: Immigrants fill out forms for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), at a workshop on February 18, 2015 in New York City. The immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York holds weekly workshops to help immigrants get legal status under DACA to work in the United States. An expansion of the national program, scheduled for this week, was frozen by a ruling from a Texas federal judge. The Obama Administration plans to appeal the ruling and, if sussessful, DACA would allow legalization of up to two million immigrants who entered the United States before they were age 16. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)  (2015 Getty Images)

A federal judge in Texas expressed skepticism over the Justice Department’s claims of confusion over whether his injunction of President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration included renewals of a 2012 deportation reprieve.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen last month halted Obama’s plan, which would spare from deportation up to 5 million people in the U.S. illegally and allow them to obtain work permits and driver’s licenses. 

The action, which Obama announced late last year, also extended the deportation deferral and work permits for those who were pursuing renewals of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and a relief from removal from the U.S. that would last three years instead of two years.

At a court hearing Thursday in Brownsville, a Justice Department attorney apologized to Hanen for any confusion after the U.S. government revealed 100,000 individuals were granted three-year reprieves before the injunction.

Hanen didn’t seem to buy the explanation, saying the three-year reprieves were part of the contested action.

The Justice Department might face sanctions if Hanen determines its attorneys misled him about whether part of Obama’s executive action on immigration was implemented prior to it being put on hold by the judge.

Hanen is expected to rule at a later date.

Recently, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, said that the 100,000 work permits amounted to a sneaky move by the administration to go around Congress and the courts.

“[Obama's] 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 to The Hill. “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.”

Immigration officials had planned to begin accepting new applications for the expanded DACA program on Feb. 18, but the judge derailed that when he blocked implementation of the executive actions in a Feb. 16 ruling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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