Federal Court Rules Against Biden Enforcement Restrictions
FAIR Take | March 2022
This week, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio blocked the Biden administration’s immigration enforcement policy guidance that restrains U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from enforcing immigration law in nearly all circumstances.
The court enjoined Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ policy guidance, captioned “Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law,” correctly determining that it violated federal law. Specifically, the court held the policy is inconsistent with immigration statutes that require DHS to detain and remove certain criminal aliens from the United States. The court also ruled that DHS failed to follow procedures required by federal law when creating the policy.
The States of Arizona, Montana, and Ohio challenged the policy guidance. In their complaint, the states charged that the Biden administration’s “practice has incentivized, and will continue to incentivize, an unprecedented level of illegal border activity, including a record influx of fentanyl at the southern border, which is trafficked into” the states’ communities. The court found that the states have standing to contest the policy in court in part because of the increased law enforcement costs the states will invariably bear as a result of DHS’s refusal to enforce the law against certain criminal aliens.
Federal law requires DHS to detain aliens who are subject to deportation for committing certain crimes pending their proceedings in front of an immigration judge. Secretary Mayorkas’s policy guidance would have limited their ability to do so to cases of terrorism, espionage and unlawful entry. In all other cases, the policy required ICE agents to consider many factors to justify or excuse enforcement actions – including whether the alien has been illegally present in the United States for a lengthy period; has family in the United States that will be negatively affected by the alien’s removal; has been the witness to a crime; has filed a housing or employment related complaint; or if the alien or a member of their family has performed some sort of public service in the United States – despite Congress’s clear statutory requirements.
“Can the Executive displace clear congressional command in the name of resource allocation and enforcement goals? Here, the answer is no,” the court’s opinion explained. Agreeing with the plaintiff states, the court determined that language Congress used when it directed that certain criminal aliens be detained and removed from the country is mandatory.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich characterized the ruling as a “tremendous victory for the rule of law and the safety of our communities.” In a statement, he said, “Since assuming office, the Biden administration has undermined our immigration laws and our law enforcement agencies, while empowering dangerous cartels and criminals on both sides of the border.”
The federal court’s injunction will apply nationwide, prohibiting DHS from applying the policy in any state, and will be in effect pending a resolution on the merits. The Biden administration is expected to appeal this decision.