Biden admin halts deportations for 100 days; Texas sues

Protesters demonstrate against the Trump administration's immigration policies during the "Lights for Liberty" rally in Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 2019. The Biden administration is pausing most scheduled deportations on Friday for a 100-day review period. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI

Jan. 23 (UPI) — The Biden administration on Friday began halting most deportations for 100 days so it can “review and reset enforcement priorities” following a Trump administration that instituted a “zero tolerance” policy for undocumented migrants.

The move prompted a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske announced the policy this week, which fulfills a campaign promise by President Joe Biden to immediately move away from the hard-line stance of U.S. immigration policy under former President Donald Trump.

“[We] will pause removals for certain non-citizens ordered deported to ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system focused on protecting national security, border security and public safety,” the department said in a statement.

“The pause will allow [us] to ensure that [our] resources are dedicated to responding to the most pressing challenges that the United States faces, including immediate operational challenges at the southwest border in the midst of the most serious global public health crisis in a century.”

Paxton challenged Biden’s order Friday, saying an agreement Texas had with the Trump administration required the Department of Homeland Security to consult with the state before taking “certain administrative actions” regarding border security. He asked the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas for a temporary restraining order.

“In one of its first of dozens of steps that harm Texas and the nation as a whole, the Biden administration directed DHS to violate federal immigration law and breach an agreement to consult and cooperate with Texas on that law,” Paxton said.

“DHS itself has previously acknowledged that such a freeze on deportations will cause concrete injuries to Texas. I am confident that these unlawful and perilous actions cannot stand. The rule of law and security of our citizens must prevail.”

Trump’s Department of Homeland Security entered into the agreement with Texas less than a month before Biden was inaugurated.

The moratorium on deportations is just one of several moves Biden made this week regarding immigration policy.

For the next 100 days, until May 2, migrants can still be deported if they have engaged in terrorism or espionage or are suspected of doing so, or if they are considered a threat to national security. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement administrator can also intervene in individual deportation cases.

Immigration policy under Trump was virtually a non-stop controversy for his entire presidency, particularly when it became known that border agents were separating families and keeping some children in locked isolation.

Trump also spent millions to build a border wall and instituted a so-called “Muslim travel ban” that denied U.S. entry for people from several Muslim-majority nations.

“The Trump administration has done more than fail in its commitment to children,” Henry Giroux, a cultural studies professor at McMaster University, wrote for UPI in 2019. “It has abused, terrorized and scarred them.”

Biden has already begun taking steps to reverse Trump’s immigration policies.

After his inauguration on Wednesday, he rescinded the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and introduced a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented migrants.

In a memo this week detailing the pause on deportations, Pekoske told U.S. Customs and Border Security and ICE employees that their priorities are protecting national security, border security and public safety, at least until the administration completes its review.

Pekoske said the process will “enable the development, issuance, and implementation of detailed revised enforcement priorities.”

“Throughout this interim period DHS will continue to enforce our immigration laws,” the department added.


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