Republican attorneys general broadened their legal battle against President Biden’s immigration policies in a new lawsuit announced Friday that challenges a federal program to shortcut the smuggling journey and bring children directly from Central America.
The Central American Minors program, or CAM, allows people already in the U.S. to petition to bring their children legally, even if the parents crossed the border illegally.
The Biden team says the program is a recognition of reality — the children are surging here already, usually braving a torturous trip that can involve assault, rape and sickness, so eliminating the need for that trip can save lives.
Eight Republican attorneys general sued, saying the policy turns U.S. immigration policy on its head.
“No sovereign nation would reward those who break the law by permitting family members abroad to join them in living in the sovereign territory unlawfully, particularly with the assistance of the government itself,” the states said in the lawsuit. “To do so would undermine national sovereignty and would be fundamentally unfair to those who pursue lawful immigration channels and patiently wait for their opportunity to immigrate to the United States.”
The group, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said the U.S. has a refugee system in place to help people fleeing persecution. But Congress never envisioned a workaround like CAM.
The lawsuit says the program was created by executive action without going through the usual regulatory process, with public notice and the chance for the public to submit comments, which makes it illegal.
CAM covers migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
It relies on the Homeland Security secretary’s “parole” power, which is supposed to be used on a case-by-case basis in exceptional instances where a major U.S. interest is at stake in admitting someone.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has flexed parole powers broadly, using them to admit Afghan evacuees and to bring back immigrants who were in the country illegally and deported without their children during the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy.
CAM was first implemented under former President Barack Obama. It was canceled by former President Donald Trump and has now been revived by Mr. Biden.
Mr. Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken expanded eligibility last summer to include those with tenuous claims of legal status, such as asylum applications or pending victim visa requests. Adults who already came on parole are also eligible under the new expansion.
“We are delivering on our promise to promote safe, orderly, and humane migration from Central America through this expansion of legal pathways to seek humanitarian protection in the United States,” the two Cabinet secretaries said.
When it was in place, CAM didn’t get as much use as advocates expected. It issued fewer than 2,000 approvals over two years.
And even with the program’s revival last year, the number of children traveling unaccompanied along smuggling routes to reach the U.S. shattered all previous records.
Joining Texas in the new lawsuit are Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma. The case was filed in federal court in the Northern District of Texas.
Republican-led states are on a winning streak against the Biden administration, particularly on immigration. Mr. Biden’s Inauguration Day deportation pause was halted in response to a lawsuit, as was Mr. Mayorkas’ attempt to cancel the “Remain in Mexico” program created by the Trump administration.
Other cases are still pending, including one aiming at Mr. Mayorkas’ limits on which immigrants who are in the country illegally can be targeted for arrest or deportation.