A federal judge delivered a severe spanking to President Biden over the southern border, ruling Wednesday that there is an illegal immigration “crisis” and accusing the administration of reducing the boundary to “a meaningless line in the sand.”
Judge T. Kent Wetherell, a Trump appointee who sits in northern Florida, said Homeland Security’s approach of catching and releasing massive numbers of illegal immigrants on “parole” is illegal.
He laid the blame for the crisis squarely at the feet of the president and his policies.
“Collectively, these actions were akin to posting a flashing ‘Come In, We’re Open’ sign on the southern border,” he wrote in a 109-page ruling. “The unprecedented ‘surge’ of aliens that started arriving at the Southwest Border almost immediately after President Biden took office and that has continued unabated over the past two years was a predictable consequence of these actions.”
He ordered the parole policy vacated — though he stayed his ruling for a week to give the administration a chance to appeal the decision.
The decision is a remarkably vocal denunciation of Mr. Biden’s approach to the border, and comes after a trial that Judge Wetherell said made clear how badly the Biden team has bungled things.
He pointed in particular to testimony of Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, who said illegal entrants were only rarely released under former President Trump but that catch-and-release has become the default posture in the Biden administration.
Judge Wetherell said that means the Biden administration has “effectively turned the Southwest Border into a meaningless line in the sand and little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country by prioritizing ‘alternatives to detention’ over actual detention and by releasing more than a million aliens into the country — on ‘parole’ or pursuant to the exercise of ‘prosecutorial discretion’ under a wholly inapplicable statute — without even initiating removal proceedings.”
That latter jab is a reference to hundreds of thousands of migrants who were released at the border without even being issued an immigration court summons, which is usually considered the bare minimum consequence for someone who entered the country illegally.
Under the law, illegal immigrants who make claims of protection are supposed to be detained while their immigration cases proceed.
The Biden administration had argued that Congress doesn’t give it enough money to detain all of the new arrivals. It said the only option left was to release them, on the hope that they would show up when their hearings occur, and then later again for possible deportation.
The administration said it was making “tough decisions” about how to use its limited bed space.
But Homeland Security regularly leaves thousands of beds unused on any given day.
And Judge Wetherell said the need to make tough decisions doesn’t give the administration the ability to violate the Immigration and Nationality Act by creating new “pathways” into the U.S.
The administration had argued previous presidents have done the same thing, but the judge said that’s not an excuse.
Besides, he said, the detention policies in place under Mr. Trump were working — but were undone by the Biden team, which generally disliked detention as the standard for most illegal crossers.
He also called the Biden administration’s attempt to blame global factors for the border surge “divorced from reality.”
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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