A federal judge Thursday imposed a preliminary injunction on the Biden administration's rules that narrow the categories border agents use to arrest and deport illegal immigrants to only those with serious criminal records.
The ruling by Judge Drew Tipton states the policy was in violation of congressional mandates, and Louisiana and Texas, the two states filed the lawsuit, were likely to succeed in their claim the policy violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
"America First Legal has been working in close partnership with Texas, Louisiana, and states around the country in litigation against many of the Biden administration’s radical immigration policies, including the anti-ICE memos that free criminal illegal aliens en masse," AFL President Stephen Miller, a former senior official in the Trump administration, wrote in a statement.
"We are also proudly serving as outside counsel for Louisiana in this seminal case. Supporting this litigation — through our unique expertise on matters of homeland security — has been one of AFL's highest priorities."
Tipton said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents should be able to pursue migrants in "overlooked categories."
In a brief that begins by quoting a 1996 Senate Judiciary Committee Report noting the need to enforce immigration laws, Tipton argued agents cannot be required to prioritize some groups of undocumented individuals over others.
"Government has instructed federal officials that 'shall detain' certain aliens means 'may detain' when it unambiguously mean[s] must detain," Tipton wrote, The Hill reported.
"Thus, the court inquires whether the executive branch may direct officials to enforce a law enacted by Congress in a way that is contrary to the plain language of the law. That inquiry yields a clear answer: it may not," he wrote.
The Biden administration issued the guidance in February, limiting ICE to focusing on three categories of immigrants: those who pose a threat to national security' those who have crossed the border since Nov. 1, and those who committed "aggravated felonies."
"The States point out that the priority categories enumerated in these Memoranda omit certain others — namely, aliens convicted of serious drug offenses, aliens convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, and aliens subject to a final order of removal," Tipton wrote.
Critics noted the Biden administration guidance coincided with a sharp drop in arrests and deportations by the agency, and accused the Biden administration of trying to handcuff the agency.
"This injunction is a critical first step toward ending Biden's lawsuit assault on our people," Miller added in his statement. "We must now fight to make those injunctions permanent. I salute Ken Paxton for his deep courage, patriotism, and skill, along with Jeff Landry of Louisiana. AFL will continue to work diligently on this case, including with other states pursuing litigation against these extremist anti-ICE memos.
"AFL will never yield in fighting against the release of criminal illegals and for the security of the sovereign American people."
The ruling was the latest blow to the Biden administration's immigration policies. Earlier this year, Tipton blocked the Biden administration from imposing a 100-day deportation freeze on ICE, Fox News reported.
And last week, U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk in Amarillo ordered the administration to "enforce and implement" the Trump-era remain in Mexico policy in response to a lawsuit, giving the administration seven days to appeal.
The memos enjoined in the ruling are part of a broader pattern by the Biden administration to push border agents to focus their enforcement efforts on a narrower subset of the migrant population, The Hill noted.
A June memo from ICE gave its prosecutors more discretion to drop cases being pursued in immigration court, including against green card holders and those who are elderly, pregnant or have serious health conditions or have been in the U.S. from an early age, The Hill reported. It also advises lawyers to weigh other "compelling humanitarian factors," like whether a defendant is a caregiver or the victim of a crime.
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