Nearly two dozen of the illegal immigrants picked up in a nationwide sweep for criminal aliens earlier this month had previously been approved for President Obama’s deportation amnesty, the Homeland Security Department said Wednesday.
All 23 were part of Mr. Obama’s original program for so-called Dreamers, which began in 2012 and which had granted tentative legal legal status to nearly 640,000 as of the end of last year.
Of the 23, 15 were still actively part of the amnesty, while eight had been approved once but had not gotten their status renewed after the first two-year period expired.
The department is trying to deport all of them now.
The Dreamers were snared as part of Operation Cross Check, which saw U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents go after top-priority targets for deportation in a move the administration said proved that they were still trying to deport dangerous illegal immigrants, even as Mr. Obama moves ahead with his amnesty.
The arrest of nearly two dozen immigrants already granted amnesty, however, suggests the difficulty the administration faces in making decisions about whom to approve.
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Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron said 14 of the 15 Dreamers who were still part of “deferred action” were convicted of their crimes after they were approved. The other one had a has a pending criminal charge but hadn’t yet been convicted or acquitted.
Of the eight others who lost their deferred action status beforehand, two had applied for a renewal and been denied because of a criminal record, another one was denied for not paying the fee required to process the application, two allowed their status to lapse and three were kicked out of the program because of their convictions.
The fact that some deferred action recipients were kicked out of the program and are on a path to deportation could actually boost the administration’s argument in a court case that has halted Mr. Obama’s amnesty expansion from November.
A Texas judge issued an injunction last month ruling the expansion likely illegal, in part because he ruled it went beyond policy guidance and constituted a new program that should have been put out for official public comment before taking effect.
The administration argues that the amnesty isn’t a program, but rather a set of guidelines agents and officers are to follow, under the president’s inherent powers of prosecutorial discretion. Justice Department lawyers contend that since immigrants can be kicked out of the program without being able to appeal proves the discretionary nature.