A United States federal judge has temporarily blocked an effort by Joe Biden to halt the deportation of some immigrants for a 100-day period, a decision that was immediately slammed by rights groups.
US District Judge Drew Tipton, an appointee of former President Donald Trump in the Southern District of Texas, issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the policy nationwide for 14 days following a legal challenge filed by Texas.
Tipton said the Biden administration had failed “to provide any concrete, reasonable justification for a 100-day pause on deportations”.
The Biden administration is expected to appeal the ruling, which halts the policy while both parties submit briefs on the matter.
Biden promised on the campaign trail to enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations if elected, a proposal that contrasted sharply with Trump’s crackdown on immigration.
Tipton’s order is an early blow to the Biden administration, which has proposed far-reaching changes sought by immigration advocates, including a plan to legalise an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the US without documentation.
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 COVID-19 pandemic.
The moratorium went into effect Friday and applied to almost anyone who entered the US without authorisation before November.
In the legal complaint filed that same day, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state would face irreparable harm if the deportation freeze was allowed to go into effect.
Paxton said it would increase education and healthcare costs as more immigrants remained in Texas illegally. He also added that it went against the terms of an enforcement agreement Texas brokered with the Trump administration less than two weeks before Biden took office.
“VICTORY,” Paxton tweeted on Tuesday, welcoming the court’s decision.
‘Lives being politicised’
In his ruling, Tipton wrote that his order was not based on that agreement but federal law to preserve the “status quo” before the DHS moratorium.
In a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union slammed the court’s decision.
“Voters rejected Trump’s disastrous immigration policies, but Texas is now seeking to keep Biden from turning the page. This initial, tentative, and hasty decision is wrong,” the group said.
BREAKING: A judge, at Texas' request, just temporarily blocked the new 100-day deportation moratorium.
Voters rejected Trump's disastrous immigration policies, but Texas is now seeking to keep Biden from turning the page.
This initial, tentative, and hasty decision is wrong.
— ACLU (@ACLU) January 26, 2021
Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA, also criticised the court’s decision, saying “the safety and lives of people are being politicised at a time when the country should be coming together to improve our shared future”.
“This pause on deportations is a necessary and critical step as the new administration seeks to undo the devastating legacy of xenophobic, racist and anti-immigrant policies instated by the previous administration, and takes steps to grapple with a deadly pandemic whose impact has been exacerbated by deportations,” Bell said in a statement.