Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit that seeks to block US President Joe Biden’s move to pause certain deportations for 100 days, a move by the Democratic president that has provoked blowback from some Republicans.
Paxton claimed in the federal lawsuit the state would face “irreparable harm” if the order goes into effect and “[f]ailure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel”.
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Biden promised on the campaign trail to enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations if elected, a proposal that contrasted sharply with the immigration crackdown promoted by former President Donald Trump, a Republican.
After Biden took office on Wednesday, the top official at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo that ordered a pause on certain deportations to enable the department to better deal with “operational challenges” at the US-Mexico border during the pandemic.
In the court filing on Friday, Paxton argued that the deportation moratorium violated the president’s constitutional duty to execute federal laws.
They didn’t budge.
— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) January 22, 2021
Paxton, a Republican, also said the temporary freeze violated an enforcement agreement the state brokered with the outgoing Trump administration earlier this month.
The lawsuit, which repeatedly cited Texas’s agreement with the Trump administration, was filed before US District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, in the Southern District of Texas.
Biden also said he will push to give legal status and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before January 1, an estimated 11 million people.
Texas shares more than 1,200 miles (1,930km) of border with Mexico, which the state’s Republican leaders said makes them particularly invested in the nation’s immigration policies. It also received thousands of refugees annually before Trump virtually ended admissions.
The state is currently leading a fight to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme Obama instituted in 2012 that confers limited protections on undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.
Friday’s lawsuit echoes many of the same arguments Texas is making against DACA, that immigrants without authorisation drain educational and healthcare resources.
Supporters of immigrant protections said those arguments are flawed and that immigrants help the state’s economy and healthcare sector, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But battles about enforcement during the Obama administration have also provided ambitious Texas politicians a ready-made national platform, including former Governor Rick Perry, who ran twice for president, and Governor Greg Abbott, a potential 2024 contender who bragged as state attorney general that his job was to sue the federal government and go home.
In bringing one of the first lawsuits against the Biden administration, Paxton is eager to be seen as a champion for Republicans not just as Democrats reclaim power in Washington, but as his own career has come under dark clouds.
The FBI is investigating Paxton, who was a loyal Trump ally, for accusations by top former aides that he abused his office at the service of a donor. Separately, Paxton has pleaded not guilty in state court to felony charges of defrauding investor in a case that has dragged on for five years.
The White House has not issued comment on the lawsuit.