A Biden administration immigration policy set to go into effect later this month violates federal law, three state attorneys general including Montana’s argue in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen joined attorneys general in Arizona and Ohio in challenging the administration’s “Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law.” The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Ohio, alleges that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ policy set to go into effect Nov. 29 precludes federal immigration officials from enforcing immigration law by limiting deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally unless they meet certain aggravating circumstances.
“In a brazen display of contempt for Congress’s statutory commands, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — announced a policy that abandons DHS’s duties to enforce or implement entire swaths of immigration law,” the lawsuit states.
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Mayorkas’ announced the policy Sept. 30, which directed discretion in targeting immigrants for removal.
With 11 million mostly law-abiding immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, “We do not have the resources to apprehend and seek the removal of every one of these noncitizens. Therefore, we need to exercise our discretion and determine whom to prioritize for immigration enforcement action,” Mayorkas’ memo states.
The memo goes on to detail prioritized deportations, including those representing a threat to national security, public safety or border security.
“By exercising our discretionary authority in a targeted way, we can focus our efforts on those who pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security and thus threaten America' s well-being,” the memo states. “We do not lessen our commitment to enforce immigration law to the best of our ability. This is how we use the resources we have in a way that accomplishes our enforcement mission most effectively and justly.”
But the lawsuit alleges that policy would allow even immigrants convicted of a crime or with a valid court order for removal to be shielded. That violates federal immigration law, which dictates a 90-day removal following a court order and that immigration enforcement agents be allowed to detain and arrest noncitizens for suspected immigration status.
“The Permanent Guidance represents an attempt by the Administration to unilaterally amend the immigration laws as applied to the vast majority of the removable or inadmissible aliens in this country without the required congressional act,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit cites the importation of illegal drugs as Montana’s reason for joining, a point Knudsen reiterated in a statement Thursday.
“Law enforcement officers in Montana are doing what they can to combat crime resulting from drugs trafficked across the southern border, but we’re fighting an uphill battle until the Biden administration does its job and enforces immigration laws,” he said. “The president’s attempt to release thousands of people into our communities with no consideration of their potential criminal history is a dangerous policy. His administration must uphold the laws that protect our communities.”
The three states are asking the court to declare the policy illegal and halt it from taking effect.
Tom Kuglin is the deputy editor for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. His coverage focuses on outdoors, recreation and natural resources.