Trump-Appointed Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Biden Deportation Plan

January 29, 2021 by Dan McCue
Alejandra Juarez, left, passes through TSA screening on August 3, 2018, at the Orlando International Airport on her deportation flight to Mexico. Juarez has run out of options to keep her Davenport, Fla., family together after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials denied the Polk County Marine veteran's wife stay of removal request. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked a Biden administration plan to impose a 100-day moratorium on deportations.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, granted a temporary restraining order sought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The court order will stay in effect for 14 days while Tipton considers a broader request from Paxton for a preliminary injunction.

But even at this early juncture, the judge has said he believes the state has demonstrated a likelihood of facing immediate harm as a result of the White House moratorium.

Paxton, a longtime Trump ally and GOP firebrand, hailed the ruling, saying it stopped the Biden administration from “casting aside congressionally enacted immigration laws” and was a “much-needed remedy for the Department of Homeland Security’s unlawful action.”

In one of his first executive actions upon taking office last week, Biden directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to halt most deportations from the U.S for 100 days.

The moratorium was intended to give the agency time to review its enforcement priorities and revamp policies that Congressional Democrats have long maintained merely bullied immigrants who had done nothing more than sought a better life for themselves and their families.

The Biden order did not apply to illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States after Nov. 1, and it included exemptions related to national security and other matters.

In his court filing, Paxton argued the moratorium would place an unfair burden on Texas.

“A near-complete suspension of deportations would only serve to endanger Texans and undermine federal law,” Paxton said in a written statement. “Blatantly illegal security threats cannot be allowed to stand, and the rule of law must be upheld.” 

Paxton also maintains the order violates an agreement state officials signed with Ken Cuccinelli, then-acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, shortly before Biden’s inauguration.

Judge Tipton did not address the merits of that agreement, which the White House says is not legally binding.

Among those who decried the ruling this week was the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which had filed a brief in the case arguing Biden’s moratorium is legal.

“Paxton sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by attempting to baselessly suppress votes; now he is attempting to force the Biden administration to follow Trump’s xenophobic policies,” said Kate Huddleston, attorney for the ACLU of Texas. 

“The administration’s pause on deportations is not only lawful but necessary to ensure that families are not separated and people are not returned to danger needlessly while the new administration reviews past actions,” Huddleston added.

Also weighing in was the League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization, which said Paxton lacked both standing and ethics.

“I would tell Paxton and those who support his lawsuit, don’t get too excited,” said Luis Roberto Vera Jr., for the League.

“This really doesn’t mean anything,” Vera said. “The courts can’t interfere with executive orders as long as they’re not unconstitutional and let’s not forget that much of what Trump did on immigration was by executive order. He always claimed it was in the national interest. Paxton likes a lot of publicity at a time when he’s facing five different indictments in pending federal investigations. This lawsuit doesn’t have any significance yet. It’s too early.”

“Attorney General Paxton cites no valid legal basis for this action to demand a stay in the 100-day moratorium,” said Texas LULAC State Director Rodolfo Rosales. Jr. “That is President Biden’s prerogative. 

“States don’t have standing when it comes to immigration policy,” he continued. “That is a federal responsibility so why the judge would grant Paxton standing is questionable because the state of Texas does not control the immigration policies of the United States. I would like the U.S. Attorney General to appeal this decision to the Fifth Circuit and even go to the Supreme Court if we must and contest this matter. I definitely would challenge the federal judge’s logic.”

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