- The Washington Times - Friday, January 22, 2021

Texas argued to a federal court Sunday that ICE is now actively releasing immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally into the state, bolstering its demand that a judge step in and order a delay to President Biden’s new temporary deportation amnesty.

The lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit, filed and argued in a snap hearing Friday and supplemented in new briefs this weekend, is the first in what’s expected to be a stream of litigation against Mr. Biden and his set of opening-week executive actions.

“Defendants’ refusal to remove illegal aliens is directly leading to the immediate release of additional illegal aliens in Texas,” Mr. Paxton argued in his latest filing Sunday.

The deportation pause, which Mr. Biden promised during the campaign and which he had Homeland Security announced last week, is among the most contentious, with the Center for Immigration Studies saying it carves 85% of undocumented immigrants with criminal records out of risk of deportation.

Some undocumented immigrants who have been in sanctuary for years are leaving their hideouts, confident Mr. Biden’s team will grant them a free pass — including Francisca Lino, who’d been shut in at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago for more than three years.

In Texas, Mr. Paxton says releases will end up being a burden, which now must provide essential services such as emergency Medicaid and schooling to undocumented immigrants who would otherwise have been ousted from the U.S.

The Biden policy stops deportations except for national security threats, people deemed to have crossed the border after Nov. 1, 2020, and cases of “aggravated felony.” Jessica Vaughan at the Center for Immigration Studies said that’s even more generous than President Obama’s policy.

Ms. Vaughan calculated that just 15% of migrants awaiting deportation are aggravated felons.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske said the deportation halt was needed so Homeland Security could “surge resources to the border” to overhaul the asylum system amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Paxton, though, said immigration law gives U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 90 days after a migrant is ordered deported to carry that out. Mr. Biden’s policy violates that law, he said.

“By ‘pausing’ removals for 100 days, DHS has ensured it cannot meet Congress’s 90-day removal deadline for numerous illegal aliens,” Mr. Paxton argued to Judge Drew B. Tipton, a Trump appointee to the Southern District of Texas.

Beyond immigration law, Mr. Paxton says the Biden administration broke a binding agreement the Trump administration signed in its waning days giving Texas — and several other jurisdictions — the chance to get a 180-day notice before any major reduction in immigration enforcement can take place.

That deal by the Trump team now binds the Biden team, Mr. Paxton said.

The Justice Department, during a snap hearing Friday, called the agreement unenforceable, questioning how a prior administration could bind a successor.

The U.S. government’s lawyer also said the judge didn’t have the power to intervene because doing so would effectively be mandating deportations — something the lawyer said is left to the discretion of Homeland Security.

Mr. Paxton’s team countered that the Temporary Restraining Order they are seeking wouldn’t mandate deportations, but would have ICE go back to its previous situation where deportations were occurring.

Mr. Paxton, in a brief Sunday, pointed to reporting by Tucker Carlson of Fox News in an email to ICE deportation officers instructing them not only to halt deportations but to “release them all, immediately.”

Texas was first with its lawsuit, but other GOP-led states are likely to follow as they peruse Mr. Biden’s expansive list of executive actions.

President Trump faced a similar swarm of lawsuits from Democrat-led states during his term, particularly on immigration matters.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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