Judge Threatens Contempt Order Against DHS Chief in Policy Fight

     HOUSTON (CN) – The federal judge who blocked President Obama’s immigration reforms threatened to hold the Homeland Security secretary in contempt for not recalling 2,000 work permits issued by mistake to undocumented immigrants.
     U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen set a hearing for Aug. 19 and ordered Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and all other defendants to attend.
     Hanen, who presides in Brownsville, said the officials must explain why they have not fixed the work permit snafu to which they admitted in a May 7 memo. The memo acknowledged that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had sent 3-year work permits to 2,000 undocumented people.
     Under Obama’s proposed policy changes, undocumented immigrants who qualify would get 3-year work permits, rather than the current 2-year permits.
     Hanen issued an injunction in February that put the changes on hold.
     In the May memo, Department of Justice attorneys admitted that USCIS had sent out the extended work permits after the injunction was issued.
     “The Government sincerely regrets these circumstances and is taking immediate steps to remedy these erroneous three-year terms,” Justice Department attorney Bradley Cohen told Hanen in the May 7 memo.
     But the feds aren’t moving fast enough for Hanen.
     “This Court has expressed its willingness to believe that these actions were accidental and not done purposefully to violate this Court’s order,” Hanen wrote in his Tuesday order. “Nevertheless, it is shocked and surprised at the cavalier attitude the Government has taken with regard to its ‘efforts’ to rectify this situation.”
     Hanen complained that by June 23, six weeks after the federal government promised to take “immediate steps,” it had not recalled the 3-year work permits.
     “With that in mind, the Court hereby sets a hearing for August 19, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. Each individual defendant must attend and be prepared to show why he or she should not be held in contempt of Court,” the George W. Bush appointee wrote.
     Twenty six Republican-controlled states sued the government in December 2014 to block Obama’s immigration policy changes from taking effect.
     The states challenged Obama’s decision to not deport undocumented people who have lived in the United States since Jan. 1, 2010, who pass background checks, and who entered as children or are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
     Those who qualify may be eligible for a federal work permit that includes their photograph, which would allow them to get a Social Security card and a state driver’s license.
     The case is before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused the government’s request to lift Hanen’s injunction in May.
     The New Orleans appellate court will hear arguments Friday on whether Hanen’s injunction is justified.
     The Department of Homeland Security was put in charge of immigration when Congress created it after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
     Hanen’s order applies to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and four other top officials under him: Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez., Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana, Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald Vitiello and Customs and Border Patrol Director Gil Kerlikowske.

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