A federal judge on Tuesday barred the U.S. government from enforcing a 100-day deportation moratorium that is a key immigration priority of President Joe Biden.
U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order sought by Texas, which sued on Friday against a Department of Homeland Security memo that instructed immigration agencies to pause most deportations.
Tipton’s order is an early blow to the Biden administration, which has proposed far-reaching changes sought by immigration advocates, including a plan to legalize an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. Biden promised during his campaign to pause most deportations for 100 days.
The judge’s order represents a victory for Texas’ Republican leaders, who often sued to stop programs enacted by Biden’s Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama. It also showed that just as Democratic-led states and immigration groups fought former President Donald Trump over immigration in court, often successfully, so too will Republicans be fighting Biden.
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David Pekoske, the acting Homeland Security secretary, signed a memo on Biden’s first day directing immigration authorities to focus on national security and public safety threats as well as anyone apprehended entering the U.S. illegally after Nov. 1. That was a reversal from Trump administration policy that made anyone in the U.S. illegally a priority for deportation.
The 100-day moratorium went into effect Friday and applied to almost anyone who entered the U.S. without authorization before November.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the moratorium violated federal law as well as an agreement Texas signed with the Department of Homeland Security late in the Trump administration. That agreement required Homeland Security to consult with Texas and other states before taking any action to “reduce, redirect, reprioritize, relax, or in any way modify immigration enforcement.”
The Biden administration argued in court filings that the agreement is unenforceable because “an outgoing administration cannot contract away that power for an incoming administration.” Paxton’s office, meanwhile, submitted a Fox News opinion article as evidence that “refusal to remove illegal aliens is directly leading to the immediate release of additional illegal aliens in Texas.”
Paxton brought the first federal lawsuit against the Biden administration last Friday.
“Failure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel,” Paxton said.
Texas shares more than 1,200 miles of border with Mexico, which the state’s Republican leaders say makes them particularly invested in the nation’s immigration policies.
The Lone Star State is currently leading a fight to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program President Obama instituted in 2012 that confers limited protections on immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The state’s recent lawsuit echoes many of the same arguments Texas is making against DACA, that immigrants without authorization drain educational and health-care resources. Supporters of immigrant protections say those arguments are flawed and that immigrants help the state’s economy and health-care sector, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
*story by Christian Broadcasting Network