Court slaps down Biden's 100-day deportation pause
A federal judge issued a full injunction Wednesday blocking the Biden administration’s 100-day deportation pause, saying the Inauguration Day decision was too hasty, flies in the face of the law, and the administration still hasn’t been able to justify the move.
Judge Drew B. Tipton, a Trump appointee, said under the law that someone who’s been found to be in the country illegally is supposed to be removed quickly.
He said the Biden team’s deportation pause thwarts that part of the law, and its stated justifications of worries about coronavirus and the need to review all Trump immigration policies isn’t enough of a reason to do so.
“What this preliminary injunction does is bar DHS from unlawfully enacting a blanket 100-day pause which is contrary to law,” he wrote.
The judge cited the Administrative Procedures Act, a little-known but powerful law that requires executive agencies to go through a thorough decision-making process before making major policy changes. The judge also pointed out the deportation pause was issued just hours after President Biden was sworn in.
“That did not leave much time for reflection and analysis,” he wrote.
He also said the government couldn’t even say who wrote the memo creating the pause, further undercutting the notion that it was a carefully considered decision.
The Administrative Procedures Act also repeatedly tripped up the Trump administration on its immigration policy moves, including attempting to roll back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and to impose new requirements on legal immigrants.
Homeland Security announced the pause on Jan. 20, just hours after Mr. Biden was sworn in and issued directives to start unwinding the Trump administration’s stiff immigration enforcement policies.
The pause applied to almost all undocumented immigrants, but did still allow for deportations of serious security or safety risks and for immigrants who arrived illegally on Nov. 1 and later.
Judge Tipton had earlier issued a temporary restraining order to put the deportation pause on hold for several weeks while he could hear more arguments.
Wednesday morning’s ruling, a preliminary injunction, will now last until a much more fulsome court case can develop, or unless a higher court steps in and overturns the injunction. Given the pause is only scheduled for 100 days, it’s also likely the matter would become moot soon.
The decision is a victory for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had sued almost immediately after the immigration pause was announced, saying his state would be hurt by it.
Judge Tipton found enough of an injury to Texas to give the state standing to sue.
Immigrant-rights groups blasted the new injunction.
“This ruling is legally wrong and will seriously harm families and communities around the country,” said Cody Wofsy, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, which had intervened in the lawsuit.
It’s unclear how much the deportation pause matters to the Biden team at this point.
Top officials at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have already issued internal guidance placing strict limits on whom deportation officers can go after for arrest or removal.
Under the previous administration ICE, while it focused on criminals and people ignoring deportation orders, considered most immigrants who were in the country illegally to be eligible for deportation if they were caught. The new Biden policy flips that, making most undocumented immigrants presumptively not targets for removal.