Last June, four months after Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen’s order to freeze President’s DAPA and Expanded DACA programs—disclosure: the Immigration Reform Law Institute has filed briefs in these cases—DHS’s immigration policy makers apparently held a “Regulations Retreat” to discuss “different options” for “open market Employment Authorization Document (EAD) regulatory changes.” EAD is the statutory term for work permits. From a memo recording these discussions, we now know that the Obama DHS has, rather than pausing to allow the courts to assess the constitutionality of its enforcement nullification initiatives, been gearing up to roll out one or more of four plans drawn up at the meeting, each one designed to provide EADs to millions of nonimmigrants, including those lawfully present and visa overstayers, crippling the actual employment-based visa system on the federal statute-book…

As mentioned, the first plan the memo discusses basically entails giving EADs to anyone physically present in the country who until now has been prohibited from getting one. A major positive to this option, the memo reads, is that it would “address the needs of some of the intended deferred action population.” Although DHS doesn’t say it expressly, included here would be those 4.3 million people covered by the president’s DAPA and Expanded DACA programs whose benefits were supposed to have been halted in the Hanen decision. On top of working around the Hanen injunction, this DHS plan would also dole out unrestricted EADs to those on temporary non-immigrant visas, such as H-1B-holders (their work authorizations being tied to their employers) and another 5 to 6 million illegal aliens thus far not covered by any of the President’s deferred action amnesty programs. By claiming absolute authority to grant work authorization to any alien, regardless of status, DHS is in effect claiming it can unilaterally de-couple the 1986 IRCA work authorization statutes from the main body of U.S. visa law. While DHS must still observe the statutory requirements for issuing visas, the emerging doctrine concedes, the administration now claims unprecedented discretionary power to permit anyone inside our borders to work.