On the very first day of Joe Biden’s presidency, acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske ordered the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not to deport any illegal aliens except in limited circumstances such as terrorism or espionage. Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Texas) challenged the order in court and on Tuesday, a federal judge barred the federal government from enforcing the deportation moratorium.
U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the Biden administration from halting deportations, the Associated Press reported.
Under Trump, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed agreements with at least four states — Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana, and Texas — giving those states a 180-day consultation period before taking any action to “reduce, redirect, deprioritize, relax, or in any way modify immigration enforcement.”
The Biden administration argued in court that the agreement is unenforceable because “an outgoing administration cannot contract away that power for an incoming administration.” Paxton, however, argued that “refusal to remove illegal aliens is directly leading to the immediate release of additional illegal aliens in Texas.”
“Border states like Texas pay a particularly high price when the federal government fails to faithfully execute our country’s immigration laws. Your attempted halt on almost all deportations would increase the cost to Texas caused by illegal immigration. DHS itself has previously acknowledged that such a ‘pause on . . . removals’ will cause ‘concrete injuries to Texas,'” Paxton said in a statement last Thursday.
According to former Trump immigration staffer Stephen Miller, Biden’s order effectively blocks ICE from doing its job. If ICE cannot deport criminal aliens, sheriff’s offices and police departments cannot transfer illegal aliens who committed crimes to ICE custody. Miller predicted that under Biden’s moratorium, “the work of ICE officers will grind to a halt beginning February first,” because ICE would have to issue guidance for the memo on February 1.
If Miller’s interpretation is correct, Biden’s deportation moratorium would effectively abolish ICE without technically dissolving the federal agency. He also suggested the order entails releasing many illegal aliens who have committed violent crimes, so long as those violent crimes do not directly implicate national security.
While Biden is president and has the ability to direct the enforcement of the law, Congress has not altered immigration law to prevent the deportations of illegal aliens who have committed violent crimes.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.