Justice Department lawyers admitted late Thursday that the Obama administration violated a court order halting President Obama's executive immigrant amnesty program, going forward and issuing thousands of work premits despite the judge's injunction, The Washington Times reported.
District Court Judge Andrew Hanen issued the injunction on Feb. 16 halting the implementation of the amnesty program, which provides deportation relief and access to work permits to illegal immigrants in the U.S. until the courts could determine whether the program is constitutional.
Nonetheless, Obama's lawyers revealed just before midnight on Thursday that an immigration agency violated that injunction and approved some 2,000 immigrant applications for three-year work permits. Hanen is considering sanctioning the lawyers for their continued problems in arguing the case, according to the Times.
"The government sincerely regrets these circumstances and is taking immediate steps to remedy these erroneous three-year terms," Justice Department lawyers wrote in a court advisory filed in the Southern District of Texas.
The admission comes after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other top Obama administration officials repeatedly told Congress that the program was halted and in full compliance with the judge's order.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the blatant disregard for the court's injunction is "remarkable."
"It's remarkable that the Department of Homeland Security has continued to approve work permits and relief from removal under the President's immigration order even after a federal judge ordered it to stop," Grassley wrote in a statement. "The last time I checked, injunctions are not mere suggestions. They are not optional. This disregard for the court's action is unacceptable and disturbing, especially after Secretary Johnson's assurances that his agency would honor the injunction."
The Department of Justice advised the judge that the Department of Homeland Security is "converting" the three-year renewals into legally permissible two-year terms.
Hanen issued the injunction after a group of 26 states, led by Texas, sued the Obama administration, claiming that the president's executive actions are unconstitutional and would significantly burden the states.
In March, the Justice Department admitted another error - that the Department of Homeland Security granted 100,000 three-year work permits to illegal immigrants prior to Hanen issuing his injunction.
The administration handed over documents last week that could help explain why it wrongly processed those 100,000 applications, but said that because the documents are privileged communications, neither the judge nor Texas, the main plaintiff in the lawsuit, should be allowed to view them, according to the Times.
In April, the Obama administration asked a federal court of appeals to lift Hanen's injunction, telling the three-judge panel that the states didn't have legal standing to even file the lawsuit, since the only the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration policy, The Hill reported. The court is still considering the matter.