By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is suing the Biden administration over claims it is ignoring immigration law that requires the federal government to arrest, detain and deport foreign nationals in the U.S. illegally.
The lawsuit alleges that the Biden administration’s immigration policy exceeds the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, is arbitrary and capricious, illegally bypassed notice and public commenting, and is unconstitutional.
The Republican attorneys general of Florida and Georgia joined the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tae Johnson, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ur Jaddou, their respective agencies, and the federal government are named as defendants.
“The Biden administration cannot ignore the law, nor should it place American lives in jeopardy by allowing criminal aliens to escape the long arm of justice,” Mr. Marshall said in a statement.
At issue is a new policy announced by Mr. Mayorkas that instituted sweeping changes to customs and immigration enforcement. Because it wasn’t challenged in court at the time, the policy went into effect Nov. 29.
The AGs are asking the court to nullify the policy, and permanently prohibit DHS, CBP, ICE and CIS from following it. They’re seeking a permanent injunction to end “the Biden Administration’s wholesale abdication of its statutory duties.” Doing so will “prevent the irreparable harm caused by the unlawful release of convicted criminals into their communities,” they argue.
They’re also asking the court to require the federal agencies to follow existing immigration law enacted by Congress.
“For more than three decades, a bipartisan majority of Congress has made law that the Executive Branch should arrest, detain, and remove all felon criminal aliens,” Mr. Marshall said. “Congress was justifiably concerned that deportable criminal aliens who are not detained continue to engage in crime and fail to appear for their removal proceedings in large numbers.
“Congress intended that those arrested and ordered removed by an immigration judge were actually deported,” he added. “What’s more, officials in previous administrations of both political parties have agreed that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has to prioritize the removal of criminal aliens, and the United States Supreme Court has held that immigration officials ‘must arrest those aliens guilty of a predicate offense.’”
The AGs argue that the federal government is not doing that under the Biden administration.
“President Biden has reversed course, effectively thumbing his nose at federal law, slow-walking or outright ignoring legal requirements for detention and deportation of criminal aliens,” Mr. Marshall said.
According to Mr. Mayorkas’ policy, violating immigration law established by Congress is no longer an arrestable offense. Only those who pose a threat to national security, public safety or a threat to border security can be considered for removal – and only at the discretion of federal agencies.
Mr. Mayorkas said the new policy will “require an assessment of the individual and take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances. In exercising this discretion, we are guided by the knowledge that there are individuals in our country who have been here for generations and contributed to our country’s wellbeing, including those who have been on the frontline in the battle against COVID, lead congregations of faith, and teach our children. As we strive to provide them with a path to status, we will not work in conflict by spending resources seeking to remove those who do not pose a threat and, in fact, make our nation stronger.”
The policy drastically changed the parameters for arresting, detaining and deporting illegal immigrants, including those who’ve committed crimes in the U.S.
Georgia AG Chris Carr said, “This unprecedented attempt to circumvent federal immigration law ultimately emboldens criminals and undermines the efforts of our law enforcement officers who work each day to protect and defend our country and our communities. It is the paramount duty of government to protect person and property, and we will fight every day to ensure all Georgians are kept safe.”
Failing to deport criminal illegal immigrants is a blatant violation of federal law, the attorneys general argue. It’s also inconsistent with policies of previous administrations, including former President Barack Obama’s, who’s own Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said “Congress has told DHS that it has to prioritize the removal of criminal aliens,” according to the complaint.
Mr. Mayorkas’ announcement last fall came after Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sued the federal government over its “catch-and-release” policy, and after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the administration multiple times over immigration law violations.
According to the complaint, their states collectively spend more than $100 million a year “incarcerating aliens who commit crimes within our borders. We will spend even more because of the criminals the Biden administration is releasing instead of arresting, detaining and removing, especially given the high recidivism rates among released prisoners.”