President Joe Biden has pursued a lenient immigration policy since his inauguration, leading to criticism that border agents have become constrained in their abilities to enforce existing laws.
Now, a February memo from acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tae Johnson that essentially prohibited the apprehension, detention, or removal of many undocumented immigrants is facing a federal lawsuit filed by four Texas sheriffs, among others.
According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit names Biden, the Department of Homeland Security, and a number of top immigration officials as its targets.
Specifically, the plaintiffs argued against the Feb. 18 memo’s directive to narrow the scope of immigrants who were eligible for detention and deportation and the requirement that agents seek preapproval for any action outside of those parameters.
Kris Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state who has long advocated for strict border security, is the lead attorney representing the four Texas sheriffs in the case.
“The ICE officers involved in this case are absolutely astounded at what their superiors are asking them to do: releasing people charged with rape of a child, releasing people charged with dealing drugs and resisting arrest,” Kobach said in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
He went on to describe some of the immigrants as “really serious criminals” who are being released into the U.S. population as a result of the Biden administration’s order.
“An unbearable burden”
Kobach also issued a more formal statement describing “not one, but three, different federal statutes” he maintains the new policy violates.
“Congress has mandated that the executive branch must detain and remove certain illegal aliens, but the Biden Administration is ignoring the law,” he continued. “The administration’s actions have forced ICE to stand down and have almost brought deportations to a halt. That has fueled the crisis at the border, encouraging more illegal immigration. It has also created an unbearable burden for local law enforcement in Texas.”
In a 33-page lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Texas, plaintiffs detail how certain ICE agents who sought preapproval before taking appropriate actions were met with a delay that rendered their efforts ineffective.
Not only has the result been a steep reduction in the number of apprehensions, detentions, and deportations, but it has also “fueled a crisis at the border and in other Texas counties, encouraging a massive surge in illegal immigration,” the lawsuit claims.
Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction against any further implementation of the policy, a declaration that the memo is unconstitutional, and an order requiring the Biden administration to enforce existing immigration laws.