A federal judge has halted the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) enforcement of a policy that restricts who immigration officials may apprehend and remove.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a regulation last year allowing immigration officials to pick and choose whom they may arrest and remove. Instead of arresting people only for being in the United States illegally, Mayorkas instructed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to focus on those the department considers a threat to national security, public safety, or border security.
Mayorkas also instructed immigration authorities to consider “aggravating circumstances,” such as the crime’s severity and the immigrant’s criminal history, as well as “mitigating factors,” such as age and length of time in the United States.
“We are guided in our judgment by the fact that the vast majority of undocumented noncitizens who may be subject to deportation have been conscientious members of our communities for years,” Mayorkas’ letter explained.
In June, Texas and Louisiana sued the Biden administration over Mayorkas’s regulation, claiming it breaches federal immigration law and places a financial strain on the state by diverting funds away from legal residents.
In a document released on Friday, United States District Judge Drew B. Tipton agreed with the two states.
“It’s also true that the Executive Branch may use its resources in whatever way it sees fit. However, it must do so within the boundaries established by Congress. The Executive Branch does not have the power to alter legislation beyond what is permitted by law.”
“The Executive Branch argues that it has the power to suspend statutory obligations under the words “discretion” and “prioritization.” This approach is not authorized by the legislation. Accepting the Executive Branch’s argument would have significant implications for the separation of powers.”
“Agents and officers on the ground are sometimes compelled to make fast judgments as they come upon people, and this technique handcuffs their hands and modifies the normal under which they make decisions about who to detain and when,” Tipton said.
Tipton vacated Mayorkas’ order, finding it “arbitrary and capricious,” according to the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirement for procedure. Tipton, however, delayed his decision for seven days so that Biden’s administration had enough time to appeal it.
Tipton previously stopped Biden’s proposed 100-day immigration restriction in his first month as president.
During his term in office, Biden deported a record-low 59,011 illegal immigrants.
The challenge is Texas v. Mayorkas, No. 6:21-CV-00016 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.