HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 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, Jan. 22, against a Department of Homeland Security memo that instructed immigration agencies to pause most deportations.READ MORE: Jake Ellzey Defeats Susan Wright In Runoff Special Election For Texas' 6th Congressional District Seat
Tipton said the Biden administration had failed “to provide any concrete, reasonable justification for a 100-day pause on 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 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 with Biden in office.
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.”
Tipton, a Trump appointee, wrote that his order was not based on the agreement between Texas and the Trump administration, but federal law to preserve the “status quo” before the DHS moratorium.
Paxton has championed conservative and far-right causes in court, including a failed lawsuit seeking to overturn Biden’s victory over Trump, as he himself faces an FBI investigation over accusations by top former aides that he abused his office at the service of a donor.
In response to the order, Paxton tweeted “VICTORY” and described the deportation moratorium as a “seditious left-wing insurrection,” an apparent reference to the Jan. 6 insurrection in which Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. Five people died in the Capitol riots, including a Capitol Police officer.
Texas is the FIRST state in the nation to bring a lawsuit against the Biden Admin.READ MORE: 2 People Killed In Chemical Incident At Plant Near Houston
AND WE WON.
Within 6 days of Biden’s inauguration, Texas has HALTED his illegal deportation freeze.
*This* was a seditious left-wing insurrection. And my team and I stopped it.
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) January 26, 2021
Kate Huddleston of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas criticized Paxton and argued his lawsuit shouldn’t be allowed to proceed.
“The administration’s pause on deportations is not only lawful but necessary to ensure that families are not separated and people are not returned to danger needlessly while the new administration reviews past actions,” Huddleston said in a statement.
Here is the full statement from Paxton’s Office:
“The Court’s decision to stop the Biden Administration from casting aside congressionally enacted immigration laws is a much-needed remedy for DHS’s unlawful action. A near-complete suspension of deportations would only serve to endanger Texans and undermine federal law,” said Attorney General Paxton. “Blatantly illegal security threats cannot be allowed to stand, and the rule of law must be upheld. I commend the Court for prioritizing the law and safety of our citizens, and I will continue to defend Texas against the unlawful and unconstitutional actions of President Biden and his Administration.”
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:
“Again, Ken Paxton and Governor Abbott think they somehow have a say on immigration matters, when we all know this is a federal process. Two days after the attack on our nation’s Capitol by Trump-supporters, our governor and state attorney general conspired with an interim Trump Administration DHS official to bind the incoming Biden Administration from making any changes to immigration law.
“We are confident that this illegal agreement between Texas and this lone DHS official is not enforceable. However, our Republican governor and AG will continue to embarrass Texas as they continue to fight in court to score political points at the expense of millions of families at our Southern border.”
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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