- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The administration processed about 100,000 applications for amnesty for so-called Dreamers under some of the expanded rules President Obama announced last year, lawyers told a Texas judge late Tuesday in a move that could complicate a claim that all action under the amnesty had been halted.

Mr. Obama’s Nov. 20 announcement offered a number of benefits to illegal immigrants, including expanding eligibility for his 2012 amnesty for Dreamers and boosting the amount of time he was granting an amnesty from deportation and permits for legal work from two years to three years.

Although the administration hadn’t begun collecting applications under the expanded eligibility, it awarded tens of thousands of three-year permits to applicants who qualified as Dreamers under the original rules from 2012.

Federal District Judge Andrew S. Hanen last month halted the latest amnesty, ruling that it likely violated federal law, but it was unclear what that meant for the three-year adjustment.

The Justice Department, in an advisory to Judge Hanen late Tuesday, said revocation of the three-year authorization was unnecessary because the judge did not intend to halt that part of the amnesty.

“They’re covering themselves,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, which has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case siding with Texas and 25 other states that sued to stop the amnesty.

Mr. Sekulow said it’s an open question whether the judge did intend for the three-year change to be part of what he halted, and that specific issue wasn’t briefed by the parties in the case.

Approving applications for three years would take all of the illegal immigrants in the initial amnesty program into the term of the next president, which was part of Mr. Obama’s design. He has said he doubts his successor will be able to cut off the program for fear of political consequences.

The Justice Department said it filed its advisory to clear up “any potential confusion.”

“It is defendants’ understanding that the preliminary injunction does not require them to take affirmative steps to alter the status quo as it existed before the court’s order,” the administration told Judge Hanen. “For this reason, defendants do not understand the order to require defendants to take affirmative steps to revoke three-year periods of deferred action and work authorization.”

In earlier arguments to the court, administration attorneys said they did “not intend to entertain requests for deferred action under the challenged policy until February 18, 2015, and even after it starts accepting requests, it will not be in a position to make any final decisions on those requests at least until March 4, 2015.”

The attorneys appeared to be afraid that the March 4 date could have misled the court into thinking nobody would gain any benefits until this week, when in fact three-year permits were being issued as of November.

In the two weeks since Judge Hanen enjoined the amnesty, The Washington Times repeatedly asked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency charged with approving the amnesty applications, how it was handling the two-year/three-year situation. The agency brushed aside those questions.

Mr. Obama announced his first amnesty in June 2012 and began accepting applications that August. Those first grants were good for two years but were renewable, and the first renewals were issued late last summer.

After the president’s November policy changes, both new and renewal applications that were pending and that were filed between then and Feb. 16 were granted three-year amnesties.

Judge Hanen’s injunction applied only to the amnesty granted in November, not the 2012 amnesty — though both were created the same way by a presidential executive action, not by act of Congress.

Earlier Tuesday, Texas and the 25 other states that successfully sued to stop the amnesty filed their own court papers urging the judge to keep his injunction in place nationwide.

They said Mr. Obama is still free to refuse to deport illegal immigrants under Judge Hanen’s order, but he cannot — and should not be allowed to — proactively grant future legal status and work permits.

“In short, there is no emergency need to institute this sweeping new program, and the stay can be denied for that reason alone,” Texas said.

Texas attorneys also said Mr. Obama’s own words continue to prove that he has acted outside the law. Last week, the president told a Spanish-language television audience that his moves “expanded my authorities” and said agents who don’t follow his new guidelines will be punished.

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