In a court filing Justice Department attorneys informed Judge Andrew Hanen that 100,000 DACA program recipients received extended benefits, including work permits, prior to when the judge issued an injunction halting all program activity. Under prior direct questioning by the judge on the subject benefit issuance, Justice attorneys omitted having issued benefits before DACA’s February 18 start date.
In a filing that was meant to inform Judge Hanen that the Administration had followed his program-implementation injunction, the Justice Department wrote:
“Out of an abundance of caution, however, Defendants wish to bring one issue to the Court's attention. Specifically, between November 24, 2014 and the issuance of the Court's Order, USCIS granted three-year periods of deferred action to approximately 100,000 individuals who had requested deferred action under the original 2012 DACA guidelines (and were otherwise determined to warrant such relief), including the issuance of three-year Employment Authorization Documents for those 2012 DACA recipients who were eligible for renewal. These pre-injunction grants of three-year periods of deferred action to those already eligible for 2012 DACA were consistent with the terms of the November Guidance…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."
Although Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued benefits before the time Obama had said the program would begin, Justice attorneys said the benefits would not be revoked. They wrote, “In light of these circumstances, Defendants file this Advisory to ensure that the Court is aware of these pre-injunction actions taken by USCIS. 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.”
Judge Hanen relied on the Feb. 18 start date when he issued his injunction prohibiting DHS from implementing "any and all aspects or phases of the expansions” to DACA.
As Byron York of the Washington Examiner notes, Justice attorneys told Judge Hanen in early January the benefits would not be issued until Feb. 18. In their filing for a two-week brief deadline extension, attorneys wrote. "Plaintiffs will not be prejudiced by the two-week extension sought in this Motion because U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does 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."
York reports that in a hearing on the Administration’s extension request, Justice Department lawyer Kathleen Hartnett told Judge Hanen, "In that [motion] we reiterated that no applications for the revised DACA — this is not even DAPA — revised DACA would be accepted until the 18th of February and that no action would be taken on any of those applications until March the 4th."
Judge Hanen asked, "But as far as you know, nothing is going to happen in the next three weeks?" "No, your honor," said Hartnett, hiding the fact that 100,000 illegal aliens already had their work permits renewed.
The Administration claims that it is now complying with the judge’s order, although in recent weeks reports suggested officials were still engaging in planning despite the judge’s prohibition on implementation of all related activities.
On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine whether the Administration had violated Judge Hanen’s order. Testifying before the committee, the Administration claimed to have stopped hiring additional staff for the executive amnesties. Officials also said preparations to house application-processing staff in a leased building had been halted.
To house staff, USCIS had already leased a building in Crystal City, Virginia at a cost of $11 million. It now remains empty. The agency claims to have hired only two staff so far for amnesty-processing purposes, and say they declined to hire another 360 to comply with the judge’s order.
Senator’s questioned USCIS about the source of funding used to pay for the building lease and other planning to date, noting that the agency is funded through fees that have not yet been collected. USCIS said the agency keeps a backup fund of about $600 million to cover unexpected costs, such as early amnesty spending.
The executive amnesty could cost up to $500 million and necessitate hiring 3,100 new staff to process applications.
Updated: Fri, Mar 20th 2015 @ 11:15am EDT