The Trump administration appears to have intentionally set up a series of last-minute, inter-state agreements to confound Biden’s anticipated attempts at immigration reform.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration, claiming the recently inaugurated president cannot halt immigration deportations without first consulting the Lone Star State.
CNN reports that the lawsuit marks the first conservative attempt to interfere with the President Joe Biden’s immigration policy.
In an attempt to undo several of former President Donald Trump’s more controversial immigration initiatives, Biden signed a series of executive orders seeking to address enforcement within hours of taking office. He also directed senior and incoming members of his cabinet to issue supporting guidance.
Among the administration’s initiatives is a temporary, 100-day pause on immigration deportations, announced by the Department of Homeland Security’s acting chief, David Pekoske.
Thee deportation freeze, explains Pekoske, will allow the department to focus its resources where they’re most needed—along the southern border, “in the midst of the most serious public health crisis in a century.”
However, Paxton’s lawsuit claims that Biden and his administration lack such authority.
In his complaint, Paxton cites a last-minute accord between Texas and the Trump administration, which obliges the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to consult with Texas before making major policy changes.
“On its first day in office, the Biden administration cast aside congressionally enacted immigration laws and suspended the removal of illegal aliens whose removal is compelled by those very laws,” Paxton wrote in his lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
“In doing so,” he said, “it ignored basic constitutional principles and violated its written pledge to work cooperatively with the State of Texas to address shared immigration enforcement concerns.”
According to CNN, the Trump administration appears to have deliberately proposed and approved a number of immigration-related policy overhauls—overhauls specifically intended to complicate any attempts Biden might take to revise or undo his predecessor’s legacy.
While the agreement between Texas and the Department of Homeland Security was signed by Ken Cuccinelli—whose authority over the agency was even then disputed—it remains unclear whether it holds any legal weight.
Paxton, however, has said continued cooperation between the federal government and Texas is critical to the interests of both.
Paradoxically, Paxton charged that Pekoske’s order to allocate more resources along the southern frontier somehow leaves the border less defended.
“Our state defends the largest section of the southern border in the nation,” Paxton said. “Failure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel.”
The Austin-American Statesmen observes that, in spite of Paxton’s rhetoric, it appears the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to ensure particularly dangerous individuals can still be removed from the United States. Pekoske’s memo does not, for instance, protect non-citizen aliens suspected of terrorism, espionage, or other such serious crimes. And neither does it prohibit immigration officials from continuing to make arrests.
Adam Kischner, an attorney for the Biden administration, said during a virtual hearing that Texas is essentially trying to claim federal power for itself.
“What Texas is trying to do is remove the discretion provided by Congress and [the Constitution] and give the power of immigration enforcement to the state of Texas,” Kischner said.