Some 100,000 undocumented immigrants received work permits under a new executive action on immigration before a federal court judge blocked it in response to a lawsuit by more than two dozen states.
Those immigrants were renewing their deportation deferral under a 2012 initiative by President Barack Obama known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, The Hill reported.
Obama’s executive action – which would give some 5 million undocumented immigrants a three-year reprieve from deportation and allow them to obtain work permits and driver’s licenses – was put on hold by the presiding judge in the lawsuit, Andrew Hanen of Texas' Southern District.
The action, which Obama announced late last year, also extended the deportation deferral and work permits for those who were pursuing DACA renewals from two to three years.
Obama administration officials say that they processed the DACA renewals sooner than applications for new forms of relief offered under the executive action in order to stagger deadlines and better manage the increased workload, The Hill reported.
The disclosure came through a Justice Department advisory document, which the agency filed with the Texas court this week, that conceded possible “confusion about when [U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services] had begun providing three-year terms of deferred action to individuals already eligible for deferred action under 2012.”
The executive action, announced last November, expanded the DACA eligibility by lifting certain restrictions, and also offered a deferral of deportation for three years to undocumented immigrants who have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
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 Hill quotes an unnamed Homeland Security official as saying: “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. 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."