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Judge: Florida Immigration Lawsuit Can Move Forward

— May 5, 2022

The Trump-appointed judge said that the Department of Justice’s move to dismiss was, at best, “unpersuasive.”

A federal judge has discarded a Biden administration request to dismiss a Florida lawsuit concerning the release of undocumented immigrants.

According to WFSU, Pensacola-based U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell denied a motion by the federal Department of Justice to dismiss the case, which was first filed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody in 2021.

In her lawsuit, Moody broadly alleged that the Biden administration has violated immigration law by allowing the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to selectively release undocumented immigrants who had been detained after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Moody says that Florida has suffered damages relating to increased education expenditures, health care costs, and criminal justice.

The Justice Department, for its part, maintained that Florida wrongfully suggested that the Biden administration has a “non-detention” policy.

Joe Biden; image by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Joe Biden; image by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

Nevertheless, Wetherell will allow the case to move forward, saying that he found the Biden administration’s defense less than compelling.

“Suffice it to say the court is wholly unpersuaded by defendants’ position that they have unfettered discretion to determine how (or if) to comply with the immigration statutes and that there is nothing that Florida or this court can do about their policies even if they contravene the immigration statutes,” Wetherell wrote in his 37-page decision.

“This position is as remarkable as it is wrong because it is well established that no one, not even the president, is above the law and the court unquestionably has the authority to say what the law is and to invalidate action of the executive branch that contravenes the law and/or the Constitution,” Wetherell said. “Thus, if Florida’s allegations that defendants are essentially flaunting the immigration laws are proven to be true, the court most certainly can (and will) do something about it.”

Wetherell, a Trump appointee, also addressed the Justice Department’s claim that the case was filed without standing.

“Florida has plausibly alleged that the challenged policies already have and will continue to cost it millions of dollars, including the cost of incarcerating criminal aliens and the cost of providing a variety of public benefits, including unemployment benefits, free public education and emergency services to aliens who settle in Florida after being ‘paroled’ into the country,” Wetherell said.

“Even if resource allocation and other policy priorities can be considered in defendants’ exercise of their limited parole authority … those considerations do not give defendants carte blanche to release arriving aliens without undertaking individualized case-by-case assessments as required by that statute, as they have allegedly done through the challenged policies — particularly if, as Florida alleges, defendants have essentially created the problem the challenged policies seek to alleviate,” he added.


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