President Joe Biden’s administration was blocked from enforcing its guidance on who can be arrested and deported by U.S. immigration agents by a federal judge, siding with two Republican-led states – Texas and Louisiana – that challenged it.
Judge Drew Tipton in Corpus Christi, Texas, ruled that the February guidance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) violated federal law requiring the government to detain people who commit certain crimes or are otherwise deportable.
“Put simply, the Government has instructed federal officials that ‘shall detain’ certain aliens means ‘may detain’ when it unambiguously means must detain,” Tipton wrote.
Comments from ICE were not immediately available.
His Republican predecessor Donald Trump promoted hardline immigration policies, some of which Biden has sought to reverse.
Agents should focus on immigrants who are considered threats to national security and public safety and those who enter the United States after Nov. 1, 2020, according to guidelines released by the Biden administration in February, just a month after Biden was sworn in.
If an agent intends to arrest someone who does not fit into any of those categories, they must receive pre-approval from a senior manager.
Donald Trump had encouraged ICE agents to go after low-level offenders and non-criminals as well as those with long ties to the United States.
An April lawsuit filed by the Republican attorneys general of Texas and Louisiana alleged dozens of convicted criminals had been released into the community due to the Biden administration’s guidance, burdening local law enforcement and social services.
While the lawsuit is pending, the judge ordered ICE not to enforce the guidance.
Trump’s judicial appointee, Tipton, blocked the Biden administration’s 100-day moratorium on deportations in January. In a ruling last week, Tipton also ordered the administration to reinstate a Trump-era policy of sending asylum applicants to Mexico while they await legal proceedings.