Law & the Courts

Did the Obama Administration Lie to a Federal Judge about Amnesty?

Homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson (Alex Wong/Getty)
The Texas attorney general is going to court to find out.

Did the Obama administration lie to a federal judge about the President’s executive actions on immigration? The Texas attorney general’s office is filing a motion for discovery to try and find out. The motion seeks to uncover whether Justice Department lawyers explicitly deceived federal judge Andrew Hanen, who issued the injunction blocking Obama’s amnesty.

“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,” said Texas attorney general Ken Paxton 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.”

On Tuesday, the Justice Department acknowledged that the Obama administration had begun implementing the executive amnesty in advance of the federal judge’s injunction, and had granted expanded deferred action on deportation to approximately 100,000 illegal-immigrant applicants before the March start date authorized by the president. The Justice Department had explicitly told Hanen otherwise, stating that “no applications” for programs relating to the president’s executive actions had been granted, as the Washington Examiner’s Byron York noted on Wednesday.

Regardless of this apparent contradiction, the Obama administration maintains that its actions were kosher. In a “Defendant’s Advisory” filed in Hanen’s court, the Justice Department argued that the “pre-injunction grants” of deferred action were lawful because they were consistent with the “November Guidance.” This guidance does not refer to Obama’s November 2014 executive orders, but to Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson’s guidance issued at the exact same time. Consistent with Obama’s orders, Johnson wrote that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows illegal immigrants who came to America at a young age to be shielded from deportation, would now protect illegal immigrants for three years instead of two.

“This change shall apply to all first-time applications as well as all applications for renewal effective November 24, 2014,” Johnson wrote. “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 DACA grants. USCIS should also consider means to extend those two-year renewals already issued to three years.”

The Obama administration appears to have relied upon Johnson’s guidance to speed the implementation of Obama’s amnesty and circumvent the judge’s blockade. As NR previously reported, the Border Patrol continues to use Johnson’s guidance to justify the Obama administration’s relaxed border protection and enforcement standards. Now, the Justice Department has admitted that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency responsible for processing applications related to the executive amnesty relied upon his guidance to begin granting applications before the start date authorized by the president.

While the Justice Department seems to be arguing that the courts only blocked Obama’s actions — not Johnson’s guidance — the Texas attorney general’s office is determined to get to the bottom of the Obama administration’s apparent deceit. Texas’s effort to fight Obama’s amnesty has been joined by 26 other states. But the Justice Department’s actions demonstrate that Obama will not allow the courts to gut his unilateral action on immigration without a battle. While Republicans in Congress already admitted defeat by deciding to fully fund DHS — and the president’s executive actions — through September, Texas has shown that it will not back down so easily.

Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at National Review.

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