WASHINGTON — An informal adviser to Republican Mitt Romney is representing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees suing the Obama administration over its plan to stop deporting many young undocumented immigrants and grant them work permits.
Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, filed the lawsuit on behalf of 10 ICE employees Thursday in federal court in Dallas. The 22-page filing contends that the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan violates federal law and forces ICE employees to break the law by not arresting certain undocumented immigrants. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton are named as defendants.
“It places ICE agents in an untenable position where their political superiors are ordering them to violate federal law,” Kobach said. “If they follow federal law, they will be disciplined by their superiors.”
Kobach, who also advised Arizona lawmakers on the state’s controversial immigration bill, said he is representing the employees as a private lawyer and not in his capacity as a Kansas state official. He wrote in the lawsuit that ICE agents have been ordered not to arrest undocumented immigrants who claim to be eligible for the administration’s new deportation policy.
Kobach also was a delegate to the platform committee for next week’s Republican National Convention.
In June, Napolitano and President Barack Obama said that some undocumented immigrants could avoid deportation and be granted a work permit for up to two years. Under the program, immigrants have to prove that they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, have been in the country for at least five years, are 30 or younger, are in school or have graduated or have served in the military may be eligible. They cannot have a criminal record or otherwise be considered a threat to public safety or national security.
Matt Chandler, a DHS spokesman, said the department uses prosecutorial discretion to focus its efforts on arresting and deporting criminal immigrants, and the newest policy is in line with that effort.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services started accepting applications for the program on Aug. 15. Immigrants have to pay a $465 paperwork fee for the program.
DHS officials have not said how many people might be eligible under the program, though the Pew Hispanic Center and others have estimated that about 1.7 million people could be covered.
An internal DHS document obtained by The Associated Press shows that the government estimated receiving about 1.04 million applications in the program’s first year, with about 890,000 being immediately eligible.
The document estimated that the program could cost between $467.7 million and $585.4 million. The department anticipated collecting about $484.2 million in fees.