A federal court ruled the Obama administration must turn over records related to its policy of suspending some deportations of illegal aliens, which critics have called “stealth amnesty.”
The Department of Homeland Security violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to hand over relevant records to the D.C. watchdog group Judicial Watch, ruled Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Feb. 28.
Judicial Watch said documents it previously uncovered show DHS officials misled Congress and the public about the scope of changes in its immigration enforcement policy.
The new policy gave wide latitude to local immigration officials to dismiss illegal alien deportation cases, including the dismissal of charges against illegals convicted of violent crimes.
“This ruling shows the Obama administration is willing to go to any extent – including gaming the courts – to continue stonewalling the full story of its lawless release of illegal aliens,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“Now, with the prison floodgates being thrown open to illegal aliens under the phony pretense of abiding by sequester cuts, it is more important than ever that Obama’s hand be revealed,” he said.
The policy, implemented by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, led to a reduction of the deportation docket in Houston, Texas, by dismissing pending enforcement proceedings against illegal aliens DHS claimed did not have serious criminal records.
Judicial Watch subsequently uncovered records showing that deportation cases were dismissed against illegal aliens who had committed serious felonies.
The litigation has become more significant, Judicial Watch pointed out, with the Obama administration’s large-scale suspension of deportations and the release of thousands of criminal illegal aliens due to alleged sequester budget cuts.
Since mid-February, the Obama administration has released from jail more than 2,000 illegal aliens facing deportation, the Associated Press reported. The administration reportedly plans to release 3,000 more this month.
Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request with DHS in August 2010 and a subsequent lawsuit in March 2011 after the department refused to release the requested records.
In January 2012, the U.S. District Court denied a DHS motion to dismiss the case in part. The court chastised the agency for its inadequate explanations and gave it a final opportunity to establish the applicability of certain privileges in withholding the information.
In its Feb. 28 decision, the District Court ruled DHS had continued to improperly withhold a substantial number of documents under the “attorney-client” and attorney “work-product” privileges.
The court declared that each of the documents “appears to concern nothing more than the implementation of an agency policy.”
Withholding the documents, the court said, runs counter to the D.C. Circuit’s earlier admonition that a government attorney’s advice on political, strategic or policy issues is not shielded from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege.