Texas Sues to Stop Biden Freeze on Deportations

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says Biden’s 100-day pause of deportations is unconstitutional because it directs Department of Homeland Security officials not to enforce federal law.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer looks on during an operation in Escondido, Calif., in July 2019. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

VICTORIA, Texas (CN) — Texas sued the Biden administration Friday over its 100-day suspension of deportations, promptly delivering on its Republican leaders’ promise to be a litigious thorn in the side of the Democratic president.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the lawsuit in Victoria federal court, where it was assigned to the only U.S. district judge who hears civil cases there, Trump appointee Drew Tipton.

Biden’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske issued a memo on Wednesday, Biden’s first day in office, barring for 100 days deportations of noncitizens present in the U.S. It took effect Friday.

It applies to all undocumented immigrants with four exceptions: people suspected of involvement in terrorism or espionage, those who were not in the country before Nov. 1, 2020, who voluntarily agreed to be deported and those for whom Peroske has found the U.S. is required by law to remove.

Paxton claims the moratorium violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law and a “mutually beneficial agreement” between Texas and the Department of Homeland Security, which requires DHS to give it 180 days’ written notice of any proposed action.

If the freeze is not immediately blocked, Paxton says, it will encourage the Biden administration to push the envelope.

“If left unchallenged, DHS could re-assert this suspension power for a longer period or even indefinitely, effectively granting a blanket amnesty to illegal aliens that Congress has refused to pass time and time again,” the lawsuit states.

Paxton makes similar arguments that undocumented immigrants are a strain on the state’s finances in this lawsuit as he has made in litigation Texas filed in 2018 seeking to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Texas maintains it spends more than $250 million per year on social services for the nearly 160,000 DACA recipients living in the state.

“When DHS fails to remove illegal aliens in compliance with federal law, Texas faces significant costs. A higher number of illegal aliens in Texas leads to budgetary harms, including higher education and healthcare costs,” the new complaint states.

Paxton claims the deportation suspension violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it is a substantial rule change and as such was required to go through a period in which the public could comment on it before it took effect.

He seeks a declaration the memo is unlawful and a preliminary injunction blocking it.

Suing the federal government is old hat for Paxton, a Republican, though he reserves most of his litigation for Democratic presidents.

Over Barack Obama’s eight years in office, Paxton and his predecessor in the Texas attorney general’s office, now-Texas Governor Greg Abbott, sued the Obama administration nearly 50 times.

It is a tradition they are very proud of. Abbott pegged his job description this way in 2013: “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home.”

Paxton telegraphed the coming onslaught of lawsuits in a tweet Wednesday in which he said he would “serve as a major check against the administration’s lawlessness.”

He said he asked the Biden administration Thursday night to rescind the deportation blockade and “they didn’t budge.”

Abbott is on board with Paxton’s scorched-Earth legal strategy.

“A new crop of Texas-led lawsuits awaits Joe Biden’s White House. Texas will take action whenever the federal government encroaches on state’s rights, or interferes with constitutionally rights, or private property rights or the right to earn a living,” the governor tweeted Jan. 16.

Biden’s flurry of executive orders in his first days in office is taken from the playbook of Donald Trump, who set the tone for his administration’s tough stance on immigration in his first week in office, issuing an order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. He went on to completely overhaul the country’s immigration rules through executive actions.

Paxton grabbed the national spotlight last month when he filed a complaint asking the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out the November election results of Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, states crucial to Biden’s victory, due to alleged unconstitutional voting irregularities.

The Supreme Court rejected it and there was speculation Paxton, who has been under indictment for five years on securities fraud charges and was recently subpoenaed by the FBI, knew Texas’ claims were meritless but was jockeying for a pardon from Trump.

Paxton was not one of the 73 people Trump pardoned Tuesday on his last night in the White House.

The Texas Democratic Party accused Paxton of wasting taxpayer money trying to score political points with his latest lawsuit.

“This is nothing but a sad attempt to keep Trumpism alive when we have a new leader in the White House and, at last, new hope for millions of Texans who had their rights violated for four years,” the party’s chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.

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