By Zachary Stieber
President Joe Biden’s administration cannot, for now, curtail arrests of illegal immigrants, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump nominee, granted a preliminary injunction sought by the states of Texas and Louisiana against two memorandums issued by Biden administration officials earlier this year that sought to “prioritize” certain categories of illegal immigrants.
Not included in the categories were illegal aliens convicted of serious drug offenses or crimes of moral turpitude.
The border states have seen rising costs related to detention facilities and an increase in crimes traceable to the memos, Tipton said in the 160-page order.
“The Court concludes the potential harms to the States arising out of the Memoranda outweigh any potential harms to the Government. The Court also concludes the public interest is served, rather than undermined, by an injunction,” he wrote.
U.S. lawyers argued that the memos did prioritize certain categories of illegal immigrants but did not preclude action against ones that fell outside those categories.
They also asserted that the Department of Homeland Security has “longstanding discretion over the enforcement of immigration laws” and that the agency’s efforts should not be interfered with.
But Tipton concluded that the government appeared to have failed to consider some of the effects of the new guidelines, including whether they would drive up crimes, since some criminal illegal aliens were excluded from the priorities outlined in the memos.
“In sum, the Government’s failure to rationally explain and connect the basis for the new guidance, along with the Government’s failure to consider certain relevant factors and alternative policies, establish that there is a substantial likelihood that the reprioritization is an arbitrary and capricious policy,” he wrote.
Additionally, the judge said the agency appeared to be neglecting federal law that outlines immigration enforcement.
The preliminary injunction is in effect pending a final resolution of the case or until a further order from the court or an appeals court.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
After the memos were issued, ICE arrested far fewer illegal immigrants each month than during the same months in 2020.
Harris County, Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, the president’s nominee to lead the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, told senators last month during a nominating hearing that he viewed the drop in arrests as concerning.
“In my experience I would like to see more data to see what other factors may have played into that to better understand the numbers,” he said. “It is concerning, so I would make sure, again, that we’re being strategic and we’re prioritizing properly that we could go after those individuals that pose the greatest threat to our communities.”
Gonzalez also said he believed illegal immigrants ordered removed from the United States should be removed.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said he was “heartened” by the responses, adding: “I think they do put you in significant tension with this administration’s policies—I’m personally fine with that, I hope you go and enforce the law vigorously, I don’t know what the White House will think of your answers but I’m heartened by what I’ve heard so far.”
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