Update: since publication, Judge Tipton blocked the 100-day deportation freeze, though the ruling will likely be appealed by the Biden administration.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to take on any policy from the Biden administration that allegedly runs afoul of Texas. He made good on that promise less than three days after Joe Biden was sworn in as president by filing a complaint and a temporary restraining order for a deportation freeze.
After the inauguration, Biden announced many executive actions, including a 100-day deportation freeze. The memorandum outlining the pause in deportations cites a need for the Department of Homeland Security to “conduct a review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement.”
Paxton responded by calling on DHS to reverse course on the deportation freeze, or it would face a lawsuit. On Twitter, he said, “As AG, I will always put Americans, Texans first – not dangerous aliens who must be deported.”
Paxton followed through on a lawsuit in the court of Judge Drew Tipton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas when DHS did not rescind the immigration order. The lawsuit argues that the halt on deportations ignores a recent agreement between the state of Texas and the Trump administration regarding a 180-day minimum notice for any immigration policy changes.
The last-minute agreements, which were signed by the unlawfully installed acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli on January 8, were made with some states and local jurisdictions, including the sheriff’s department in Rockingham County, North Carolina. Many legal analysts have noted these agreements are of dubious legal standing. Civil rights groups, including the ACLU of Texas, have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to hand over records about the last-minute agreements.
Judge Tipton heard arguments on Paxton’s lawsuit last Friday. Tipton is a Trump-appointed judge; however, he did not indicate when a ruling would come from his bench. The 100-day freeze did start Friday.
Paxton recently led the multi-state effort to challenge DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in court. Oral arguments in Texas v. United States were heard at the end of December by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen, who is also in the Southern District of Texas. Hanen has not ruled yet on the challenge to DACA.
President Biden affirmed his commitment to protecting Dreamers and called on Congress to pass a law with an eight-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. More than 100 major corporations also signed on to a letter urging Congress to pass an immigration bill.
Several Texas Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, have called out Paxton for the lawsuit.
State Rep. Erin Zwiener also pointed out that the lawsuit is likely a waste of taxpayer money.
Paxton has also weathered calls for his resignation after delivering a speech in Washington D.C. on January 6 that led to an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol from supporters of former President Trump. In the days following the violence at the Capitol, Paxton falsely claimed that those attacking the Capitol were not Trump supporters.
Paxton is currently being investigated by the FBI for abuse of office and bribery over his connections to a wealthy donor. He is also facing a lawsuit from several whistleblowers who witnessed his alleged abuse of office and bribery. Paxton did not receive a presidential pardon for his recent legal woes. In 2015, Paxton was indicted by a state grand jury on felony securities fraud.
Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images