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Judge Calls Time Out in Immigration Case

(CN) - A federal judge on Monday put a hold on litigation over President Obama's immigration policy after the federal government revealed it recently granted expanded amnesty to 100,000 undocumented immigrants.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued the order so that he could weigh the impact the revelation will have on the proceedings. Hanen issued an injunction three weeks ago to stop the feds from starting the modified Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, two days before the government was to begin accepting applications. The Obama Administration implemented the policy in 2012, and last November announced it would be modified to increase the number of undocumented immigrants eligible.

The original DACA program allows immigrants who came to the United States as children, lived here since June 15, 2007, went to school, did not commit serious crimes, and were under 31 years old, to apply for deferred deportation and federal work permits.

The administration expanded DACA in November 2014 by removing the age cap and pushing up the date which immigrants must have lived in the United States to Jan 1. 2010.

"The third change involved adjusting the period of deferred action under DACA from two to three years," the Justice Department said in a court filing.

Led by Texas, 26 Republican-controlled states sued Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other immigration officials in early December 2014, claiming the Obama administration's expanded amnesty programs are unconstitutional.

Hanen issued an injunction against the directives, after finding Texas had established standing because it would be forced to foot the bill for issuing driver's licenses to qualifying immigrants.

The programs caused a quagmire in Congress, as Republicans tried unsuccessfully to tie funding for DHS to a repeal of them.

After the Justice Department appealed Hanen's ruling to the 5th Circuit, "out of an abundance of caution" it told Hanen in a March 3 advisory that before he issued the injunction U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had "granted three-year periods of deferred action to approximately 100,000 individuals who had requested deferred action under the original 2012 DACA guidelines." (Emphasis in original.)

The administration also extended federal work permits from two to three years for some immigrants who qualified under the 2012 DACA rules.

The amnesty extension "was consistent with the terms of the November Guidance," Justice Department attorney Kyle Freeney said in the advisory.

But Freeney told Hanen the administration immediately stopped offering 2012 DACA qualifiers the extensions when he issued his injunction.

The Republican-state plaintiffs seized on this revelation and filed a motion for early discovery to get more details about why the feds granted expanded DACA relief for the 100,000 immigrants while telling Hanen the expanded relief would be delayed.

Hanen issued an order Monday that put the case on hold until he figures out how the Justice Department's advisory will impact the proceedings.

"Due to the seriousness of the matters discussed therein, the court will not rule on any other pending motions until it is clear that these matters, if true, do not impact the pending matters or any rulings previously made by this court," Hanen wrote in a 1-page order.

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