Texas on Friday moved to stop President Joe Biden from allowing a 100-day moratorium on deportations, bringing one of the first lawsuits against his new administration.
The lawsuit seeks a halt to the deportation moratorium "for certain noncitizens" that was to begin Friday. Biden has signed a raft of executive orders, including one revoking former President Donald Trump's mandate that made anyone in the U.S. illegally a priority for deportation.
Texas claims the moratorium violates an agreement, signed in the waning weeks of Trump's presidency, that required the federal government to run changes in immigration enforcement past the state first. BuzzFeed News first reported the Trump administration signing similar agreements with Republican leaders in several states. Legal scholars have expressed doubt that the agreements will be enforceable in court.
"Failure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel," Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.
The Department of Homeland Security referred questions to the White House, which did not immediately respond.
The lawsuit, which repeatedly cites Texas' agreement with the Trump administration, was filed before U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, in the Southern District of Texas.
Since taking office Wednesday, Biden has shown intent to unwind many of Trump's immigration crackdowns. His first steps included stopping construction of a border wall with Mexico and lifting a travel ban on people from several predominantly Muslim countries.
Biden also says 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 of border with Mexico, which the state's Republican leaders say makes the state particularly invested in the nation's immigration policies. It also received thousands of refugees annually before Trump virtually ended admissions.
The state is leading a fight to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program former President Barack Obama instituted in 2012 that confers limited protections on immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Friday's lawsuit echoes many of the same arguments Texas is making against DACA — for instance, that immigrants without authorization drain educational and health care resources. Supporters of immigrant protections say those arguments are flawed and that immigrants help the state's economy and health care sector, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 is under dark clouds.
The FBI is investigating Paxton, who was a loyal Trump ally, over 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 fraud charges in a five-year-old case.