Homeland Security has discovered more three-year amnesty applications it approved in defiance of a federal judge’s firm injunction, lawyers told the court late Wednesday — less than a week after the judge delivered a vicious spanking to the administration for repeatedly bungling the case.
Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said as they were preparing for their latest update to the court, they discovered three more three-year amnesties they had sent out, after Judge Andrew Hanen had ordered them not to.
Mr. Rodriguez blamed “human error” and said the permits, known specifically as employment authorization documents or EADs, were reissues of ones that they’d sent earlier, but got returned for some reason.
He did not elaborate on the “human error,” and his agency refused to answer follow-up questions from The Washington Times about what those errors entailed, and why it took five months to discover them.
The amnesties are part of the executive action President Obama took in November 2014 to try to stop deportations of most illegal immigrants. He ordered new “priorities” putting most of the 11 million unauthorized migrants out of any danger of being removed, and in the case of up to 5 million, he granted them work permits and a three-year proactive stay of deportation.
Texas led 25 other states in suing, arguing Mr. Obama broke the law and violated the Constitution, and Judge Hanen issued an injunction halting the entire program. The case is now pending before the Supreme Court, but in the meantime, the administration issued more than 100,000 three-year permits, in what Judge Hanan has now ruled to be a violation of his order.
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office said the bungles are the latest in a string of problems for the administration.
“Throughout this case, the administration has struggled to provide accurate, reliable information regarding the scope of the president’s plan or even when it would be implemented,” the office said in a statement. “This is just more of the same from the Obama administration. From the start, our lawsuit has been about asserting that one person cannot unilaterally change the law, and part of that is ensuring everyone abides by the rule of law.”
The three approvals are small compared to the thousands the agency had already admitted to, but they are an embarrassing black eye just days after Judge Hanen ordered the Justice Department to force its lawyers to undergo remedial ethics training for having misled him on the earlier approvals.
Mr. Rodriguez said he’s already taken steps to revoke the three-year amnesties and replace them with legal two-year documents, and said he’s imposed new checks to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I have instructed USCIS to conduct monthly checks or systems to identify any such EADs that may be issued or re-mailed despite the safeguards described above, to allow USCIS to take prompt corrective action,” he said.
Judge Hanen had yet to respond to the latest bungle Thursday, but in his order last week he showed he was at the end of his rope when it came to the administration’s handling of the case and the repeated approval of amnesty applications when they were supposed to be in abeyance.
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“There is no doubt that misconduct has occurred,” he wrote in his May 19 order.
He thought about tossing the government’s defense out, and ruling in favor of Texas and the other plaintiffs, but since the case has already made its way to the Supreme Court, he said that would be unfair. He also thought about making the government pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs, but said that would just end up putting federal taxpayers on the hook.
Instead, he ordered the Justice Department to put lawyers at its Washington headquarters through remedial ethics training. And he barred the D.C.-based lawyers from practicing in his court.
That led to an odd situation in Wednesday’s new filing. Since Judge Hanen hasn’t said which lawyers, exactly, are banned from practicing in his courtroom, the Justice Department said it wasn’t sure who was able to file this week’s briefs. In the end, they had the local U.S. attorney in southern Texas make the filing.
Judge Hanen last week also ordered the government to submit to the court the list of the more than 100,000 illegal immigrants who were illegally approved for the three-year amnesty.
Immigrant rights advocates have fumed at the judge, saying he overstepped his own bounds.
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, said demanding the names of the illegal immigrants was “good old-fashioned scare tactics,” and said Judge Hanen is “shamelessly anti-immigrant.”
America’s Voice, a leading advocacy group, said turning over the names could be a precursor to getting them deported if Donald Trump, Republicans’ likely presidential nominee, wins the White House.