- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2015

A federal judge should have known Homeland Security was carrying out at least part of President Obama’s new deportation amnesty beginning last year, department Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress on Thursday as the administration continued to struggle with what’s become a thorny legal issue.

Justice Department lawyers had to apologize to a court earlier this month after revealing that Mr. Johnson had in fact been approving three-year “deferred action” applications from so-called Dreamers — an enhancement included in Mr. Johnson’s memos designed to carry out Mr. Obama’s new immigration policies.

But Judge Andrew S. Hanen is considering imposing sanctions on the administration, saying in a court hearing last week that he felt misled when he learned a part of the amnesty was being carried out. He said the government had led him to believe that none of the amnesty — which grants a stay of deportation and work permits to potentially 4 million illegal immigrants — was in effect.

Mr. Johnson said his directive announcing the three-year applications was part of the record submitted in the court case, so the Justice Department and Judge Hanen should have been aware.

“Sitting here, I do not know whether the number of renewals that had been granted at the moment of the hearing was known to the court, but it should have been clear because it was in the record of the case that we began issuing three-year renewals effective Nov. 24, 2014,” Mr. Johnson said at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday. “That’s right here on page three of this directive.”

The Nov. 20 directive reads that the change “shall apply to all first-time applications as well as all applications for renewal effective November 24, 2014. Beginning on that date, USCIS should issue all work authorization documents valid for three years, including to those individuals who have applied and are awaiting two-year work authorization documents based on the renewal of their [deferred action] status. USCIS should also consider means to extend those two-year renewals already issued to three years.”

The issue has become a thorn for the administration.

“I was made to look like an idiot,” Judge Hanen told Justice Department lawyers in last week’s hearing.

Texas, which has sued to stop Mr. Obama’s new amnesty, has asked Judge Hanen to grant limited discovery in order to get to the bottom of what applications the administration has approved.

Mr. Obama’s lawyers oppose that, saying the difference between a two-year grant of amnesty and a three-year period doesn’t impose any new burdens on the states.

Lawyers have told the court they approved more than 108,000 applications under the three-year policy — though all of those met the criteria of the 2012 amnesty for Dreamers, not the expanded criteria issued in 2014.

A decision by Judge Hanen on possible sanctions could come at any time.

Judge Hanen has blocked the new amnesty, finding that it likely broke federal law and issuing an injunction last month halting it. The Justice Department has appealed the ruling and asked an appeals court to stay Judge Hanen’s injunction, which would allow the amnesty to take effect while the court case proceeds.

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