HOUSTON (AP) — A coalition of states suing to stop President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration alleges the government misled a judge about not implementing part of the plan before the judge temporarily halted it.
The allegation comes after the Justice Department said in court documents this week that federal officials had given 100,000 people three-year reprieves from deportation and granted them work permits under a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Justice Department attorneys had previously said federal officials wouldn't accept requests under an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, until Feb. 18.
The federal government's immigration actions regarding DACA as well as a program that would extend deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, were put on hold on Feb. 16 by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas. Justice Department attorneys have asked Hanen to lift his hold while they appeal the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Hanen has not made a decision on that request.
Obama's action, first proposed in November, could spare from deportation as many as 5 million people who are in the U.S. illegally. Many Republicans strongly oppose his action and 26 states, most of them led by Republicans, sought to block the Obama orders as unconstitutional.
"News that tens of thousands of expanded work permits have already been issued to illegal immigrants while President Obama's executive action, which we believe is illegal, is being contested in the courts is both outrageous and unacceptable," Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement.
In court documents filed Tuesday, the Justice Department said that between Nov. 24 and Feb. 16, federal immigration officials granted the three-year reprieves to 100,000 individuals who were already eligible under the original 2012 guidelines of DACA.
The Justice Department said the federal government recognizes that its identification of Feb. 18 as the date when requests under the new and expanded eligibility would be accepted "may have led to confusion."
Justice Department attorneys said they don't believe the preliminary injunction requires federal officials to take any steps to reverse the three-year reprieves already granted.
In court documents filed Thursday, the states said they don't understand why the U.S. government doesn't consider the approval of the 100,000 reprieves to have been done under the new and expanded guidelines of DACA.
The 2012 DACA guidelines provided two-year deportation reprieves and work permits. Obama's new immigration action would expand that to three years.
"This newly disclosed conduct is difficult to square with (the federal government's) prior representation to the Court that 'nothing is going to happen' until weeks after" a Jan. 15 court hearing on the preliminary injunction request, the states said in court documents.
The states, led by Texas, asked Hanen to allow them to request additional information from the federal government about how it approved the DACA requests while the lawsuit was going through the courts.
In his Feb. 16 decision on the injunction, Hanen wrote the federal government had indicated that Feb. 18 would be the date it planned to accept requests under the expansion of DACA. Hanen also wrote that while his injunction did not affect the 2012 DACA program, it did put on hold its expansions and additions proposed by Obama's action.
The other major part of Obama's immigration action extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, had not been expected to begin until May 19.
The other states seeking to block Obama's orders are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
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