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State Accuses Obama Administration of Misleading Judge

Attorneys for the state of Texas say the Obama administration started granting work permits to undocumented immigrants before it said it would, and misled a federal judge about it. They're demanding more details.

A cheerful Gov. Greg Abbott predicts that any challenge to Judge Andrew S. Hanen's recent amnesty ruling will be rejected on appeal at a Texas Capitol press conference on Feb. 18, 2015.

Attorneys for the state of Texas say the federal government jumped the gun on starting President Obama's controversial executive order on immigration, then misled a federal judge about it. On Thursday, they asked a federal court to grant them quick access to more details on what happened.

On Feb. 16, Brownsville-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen temporarily halted the president’s executive action on immigration that was announced in November. The first phase of the program, an expanded version of 2012’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was set to begin on Feb. 18. The expanded DACA that Hanen halted included three provisions: removing the age cap of 31 years, moving up the date by which applicants needed to be in the country from June 2007 to January 2010, and granting three-year work permits and reprieves from deportation instead of the original two-year term.

In their request for early discovery filed on Thursday, the state’s attorneys argue that in discussions with the court leading up to Hanen’s decision, the Obama administration said it would not begin accepting applications for the program until February. But in an advisory filed on Tuesday by the White House’s own attorneys, they stated that between Nov. 24 and Feb. 16, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services granted about 100,000 three-year deferred action requests.

The state argues that the administration misled the court. 

“In an apparent attempt to quickly execute President Obama’s unlawful, unconstitutional amnesty plan, the Obama Administration appears to have already been issuing expanded work permits, in direct contradiction to what they told a federal judge previously in this litigation,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “The circumstances behind this must be investigated, and the motion we seek would help us determine to what extent the Administration might have misrepresented the facts in this case.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott added, “I commend Attorney General Paxton for continuing to hold the Obama Administration accountable, and I’m confident an investigation would find the Administration knowingly or recklessly misled a Federal Court in issuing thousands of amnesty documents illegally."

In their advisory, attorneys for the Obama administration said that the change from two to three years "applied not only to individuals eligible for DACA under the newly expanded guidelines, but also (as of November 24, 2014) to individuals already eligible for DACA under the original 2012 guidelines.” Hanen did not halt the 2012 provision.

The White House’s attorneys say they immediately took steps to stop the implementation of the president’s planned executive action after Hanen’s ruling. And they also stopped the three-year grants. But they also conceded that USCIS’s actions caused confusion.

“Defendants nevertheless recognize that their identification of February 18, 2015, as the date by which USCIS planned to accept requests for deferred action under the new and expanded DACA eligibility guidelines, and their identification of March 4, 2015, as the earliest date by which USCIS would make final decisions on such expanded DACA requests, may have led to confusion about when USCIS had begun providing three-year terms of deferred action to individuals already eligible for deferred action under 2012 DACA,” they state.

But they also say they don’t understand why the three-year permits for people who qualified under the original program, which was not stopped, should be revoked.

“The fact that pre-injunction grants of deferred action were issued for increments of three, rather than two, years does not have any present impact on the recipients’ ability to remain in the country and work,” the White House’s attorneys said, according to court documents.

It’s unknown when Hanen will rule on the state’s request.

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