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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
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Texas and Missouri sue Biden for canceling border wall projects

The states says Congress, in fiscal years 2020 and 2021, appropriated more than $2 billion for construction of a barrier system on the southwest border, only to have Biden turn his back on the effort.

VICTORIA, Texas (CN) — Texas and Missouri sued President Joe Biden on Thursday for refusing to construct barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border with funds Congress appropriated for that purpose.

Making good on a campaign promise there would “not be another foot of wall constructed” by his administration, Biden issued a proclamation on his first day in office directing the Department of Homeland Security to pause work on each wall-construction project on the border.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, precipitated the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, 35 days, after Congress refused to authorize $5 billion for wall construction.

Trump pushed through construction of 450 miles of fences on the border, though most of it replaced lengths built by previous administrations, with some sections costing $27 million per mile.

In pulling the plug, Biden called the project a “waste of money” and said “building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution.”

Texas and Missouri disagree.

They sued Biden and DHS officials in federal court, seeking a declaration their termination of funding for and construction of southwest border wall was unlawful, and an injunction ordering them to rescind their cancelation of such projects.

Texas and Missouri say Congress, in fiscal years 2020 and 2021, appropriated more than $2 billion for construction of a barrier system on the southwest border, only to have Biden turn his back on the effort.

They cite a report issued by DHS in 2018 that concluded “walls have proven extremely effective” in stopping illicit drugs and undocumented immigrants from entering the U.S., noting wall construction in one Border Patrol sector led to a 90% decrease in apprehensions.

This is the fourth lawsuit Texas has filed this year against the Biden administration over its immigration policies.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans seeking re-election in 2022, have been some of the most vocal critics of Biden’s border policies.

“The Biden Administration’s flat refusal to use funds that have already been set aside by Congress to build the border wall is not only illegal and unconstitutional. It’s also wrong, and it leaves states like Texas and Missouri footing the bill,” Paxton said in a statement.

Attempting to establish standing, Texas and Missouri claim ending border wall construction will lead to more immigrants illegally entering their states, increasing the amount of taxpayer funds they have to spend on educating undocumented children in public schools.

In addition, the states claim, they will have to bear the costs of more paperless immigrants receiving state-funded health care, and incarcerating in state prisons those who are convicted of felonies.

Texas says due to the fact it shares the largest border, 1,254 miles, with Mexico of the four states on the southwest border, a large number of immigrants who illegally enter the country remain in the state.

“Likewise, empirical evidence shows that about 6 out of every 1,000 illegal aliens entering the United States enters and remains in Missouri,” the complaint states.

Missouri’s and Texas’ lawsuit will likely be assigned to U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee. He is typically the only district judge who is assigned lawsuits filed in Victoria federal court.

Tipton has already ruled in favor of Texas and against the Biden administration in two immigration-related cases this year.

Less than a week after Biden took office, Tipton blocked him from carrying out a 100-day pause on deportations.

In August, Tipton issued a nationwide injunction blocking Biden’s Department of Homeland Security from continuing to follow deportation guidelines he determined were forcing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to avoid taking into custody undocumented immigrants convicted of serious drug crimes and crimes of moral turpitude, in violation of mandates imposed by Congress.

Texas and Louisiana, its co-plaintiff in the deportation-guidelines case, have requested an en banc hearing before the Fifth Circuit, after a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based appellate court stayed Tipton’s order.

DHS plans to replace the interim deportation guidance with new rules Nov. 29.

Though Biden has kept in place a pandemic-related Trump-era policy in which most immigrants who enter the country illegally are immediately expelled, Texas’ leaders blame his pledge to be more welcoming to refugees and asylum seekers than Trump for causing a crisis as Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 1.14 million immigrants at the southwest border in the first eight months of Biden’s presidency.

Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March, deploying thousands of Texas National Guard soldiers and state troopers to South Texas to help Border Patrol agents arrest immigrants.

This summer Abbott announced Texas will use $750 million of more than $2 billion the state Legislature allocated for border security over the next two years on building border walls on state land and on the property of private owners who agree to it.

Abbott is also crowdsourcing funds for the project. The state had received $54.3 million in donations as of Oct. 8, though nearly 98% of it came from an anti-immigration billionaire who lives in Wyoming named Timothy Mellon, the Texas Tribune reported.

Abbott says his goal is to arrest immigrants who bypass Texas-built fences on trespassing charges to deter others from coming across the Rio Grande, the state’s border with Mexico. But the initiative has not gone as planned.

In the last week of September, judges ordered hundreds of immigrants, all men, to be released from a state prison recommissioned to take in those arrested under Abbott’s operation on no-cash bonds because they had been imprisoned for weeks without being charged with a crime.

State prison officials said the men would be turned over to DHS authorities and deported, locked up in federal immigration prisons or released to await resolution of their asylum applications.

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