Federal judge sides with DeSantis, blocks Biden attempt to open Mexico border
A federal judge in Florida has temporarily halted sections of the Biden administration's new immigration policy. The ruling was delivered on a Thursday night as a large number of migrants gathered at the southern border.
Judge T. Kent Wetherell sided with the state of Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration. The federal government was ordered to abstain from implementing its proposed move to "parole" migrants crossing the southern border via Texas, as reported by Politico.
The policy aimed to address a significant influx of migrants as the Covid-era Title 42 rules were set to expire at midnight. However, this decision has now embroiled the Biden administration in a legal battle.
Wetherell's Ruling Builds on Previous Lawsuit
Judge Wetherell determined that he "fails to see a material difference" between the Biden administration's new parole policy and the one he ruled as unconstitutional in March. His ruling builds on a prior lawsuit filed by Florida, which accused the Biden administration of overlooking a federal law that mandates the detention of migrants entering the country illegally.
The previous lawsuit took issue with a parole and "alternatives to detention" policy established in November 2021, which has since been amended. Wetherell, appointed by former President Donald Trump, detailed in his 17-page order that "in both instances, aliens are being released into the country on an expedited basis without being placed in removal proceedings and with little to no vetting and no monitoring."
Temporary Restraining Order Granted
The judge granted the temporary restraining order requested by the DeSantis administration in a lawsuit led by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.
The order is set to take effect at 11:59 p.m., timed to coincide with the expiration of Title 42, CBS News reported. This timeframe allows the Biden administration an opportunity to seek a stay from a higher court. Moreover, the judge has scheduled an injunction hearing for May 19 in Pensacola.
Biden Administration Argues Policies are Necessary
The Biden administration's attorneys urged Judge Wetherell on Thursday afternoon to reject Florida's attempt to block policies they argue are "necessary to address an imminent and dramatic increase [of] arrivals at the southwest border." They maintained that such a move would limit the executive's authority to manage the border, especially during an emergency and without a full briefing on the eve of a predicted significant increase in border arrivals.
Understanding Title 42 and the Parole Policy
Title 42 refers to a section of the U.S. Code concerning public health, social welfare, and civil rights. Implemented by the Trump administration in 2020 during the pandemic, it was used to turn people away at the border on public health grounds.
With its expiration on May 11, the Biden administration plans to release migrants in the U.S. on "parole," with the understanding they will report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office.
Florida Seeks Explanation for New Immigration Plan
Through the lawsuit filed Thursday, Florida is attempting to pressure the Biden administration, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other federal officials, to explain how their latest immigration plan does not violate the March ruling.
Wetherell, compelling a response from the federal government, suggested it "appears that DHS is preparing to flout the Court's order," noting that the new policy "sounds virtually identical" to the one vacated months prior.
However, the Biden administration's attorneys have countered this, arguing that "important distinctions" exist between the two policies. They highlight that "grant of parole is time-limited, and the policy focuses to an even greater degree on ensuring the health and safety of individuals."
They defended the federal government's approach to immigration and requested the judge allow for a hearing before making a decision and for a temporary court stay if he does rule.
"DHS is exercising all available authority to address the anticipated surge in migrants, but its available staffing and facilities to safely process and issue charging documents to record numbers of new arrivals are limited," the Biden legal team, including Brian Boynton, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, wrote. They emphasized that "In the face of an imminent crisis, DHS must make use of all available statutory authority Congress has granted it to process migrants, including parole."
Criticism from Republican-Led States
Florida, along with other Republican-led states such as Texas, has been sharply critical of immigration policies pursued by the Biden administration. Gov. DeSantis, who is expected to run for president, has advocated for a controversial migrant relocation program. The program resulted in the state flying nearly 50 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in September of the previous year, and it is now preparing for more such flights in the coming days.
This recent ruling adds another layer of complexity to the ongoing immigration debate in the United States. The rigorous legal battle is set to continue, with a hearing scheduled for May 19 in Pensacola. As the situation develops, it will be important to see how the Biden administration responds to this latest challenge to its immigration policy.