(Center Square) Florida joined a multi-state coalition led by Texas suing the Biden administration for reinstating an Obama-era program that allows illegal immigrants to enter and remain in the U.S., bypassing laws established by Congress.
In addition to Texas and Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Alaska joined the lawsuit over the Biden administration’s reinstating a 2014-era Central America Minors (CAM) Program that was halted by the Trump administration in 2017.
The lawsuit announcement came after attorneys general from 12 states, all Republicans, participated in a border summit in the McAllen, Texas, area hosted by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody attended the summit and met with law enforcement officials “about the dramatic overrun of the border brought on by President Joe Biden’s reckless immigration policies – the impact of which is resulting in public safety ramifications for citizens and taxpayers far beyond U.S. states that border Mexico,” she said.
“After seeing the chaos in person, it is even more clear to me now that Biden and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas are building their own illegal organization to transport illegal immigrants into and around our country – thumbing their noses at federal laws. I will not only work aggressively to stop these illegal acts, but I will continue to inform Floridians about what their federal government is actually doing, and the dangers associated with those decisions,” she added.
This was the second time Moody has been to the border with Paxton, after having attended a border summit in Del Rio last year about the joint efforts between Florida and Texas in Operation Lone Star. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott discussed the border security initiative. At the time, DeSantis said he was astonished to learn of how many illegal immigrants being apprehended said their final destination, after coming through the southern border, was Florida.
Florida, like Texas, sued the administration over its immigration policies last year, as well as over vaccine mandates.
Of this latest lawsuit, DeSantis said he was glad AG Moody was “helping to block the reckless immigration policies of the Biden administration.”
“The Biden administration continues to disregard the laws of this country and allow massive numbers of illegal aliens across the border, without regard to possible criminal backgrounds or connections to illicit activity,” DeSantis said. “Not only are these illegal aliens allowed free reign in this country, but the administration also pushes the burden and costs onto the states and ignores the consequences of its policies.”
The CAM program provides certain minors who entered the U.S. illegally the ability to secure “protected status” instead of being deported. The status then enables them to petition the government to bring in extended family members, including adult caregivers, from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, “without going through the proper legal channels,” Moody said. CAM applies to illegal immigrants with a pending claim for asylum, though many may not be granted asylum or show up to their hearings, she added.
“There is no authority in federal law for this sort of program,” the AGs who sued argue, as Congress never authorized it.
The Biden administration reinstating CAM, the lawsuit argues, “usurps the power of Congress to dictate a national scheme of immigration laws and is contrary to the Immigration Naturalization Act.”
The Biden administration launched the program last March and expanded and revised it last June. It announced it would first begin processing eligible applications that were closed when CAM was terminated in 2017, and then begin accepting new applications with new guidance.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Mayorkas said reinstating CAM was “responsible” and another “component of the President’s multi-pronged approach to address the challenges of irregular migration throughout North and Central America.” Blinken and Mayorkas said they were “proud” to “expand access to the program to a greater number of qualifying individuals.”
Those eligible for the program, they said, include legal guardians and parents who are in the U.S. illegally under withholding of removal status, deferred enforced departure status, deferred action, on parole, have temporary protected status or lawful permanent residence.
The changes “will dramatically expand access to the CAM program,” Blinken and Mayorkas said, adding that they were “firmly committed to welcoming people to the United States with humanity and respect, as well as providing a legal alternative to irregular migration. We are delivering on our promise to promote safe, orderly, and humane migration from Central America through this expansion of legal pathways to seek humanitarian protection in the United States.”
The AGs argues that most individuals in the program don’t qualify as refugees and instead of the program being used on a case-by-case basis, depending on urgent humanitarian-related circumstances or significant public benefit, it’s being applied on a broad scale. It’s “arbitrary and capricious,” the AGs argue, “and violates the president’s duty to make sure that the laws are faithfully executed.”
The complaint highlights the harm the program is causing Floridians by unlawfully admitting illegal immigrants into Florida, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
Florida spends more than $100 million every year incarcerating people who are in the U.S. illegally and commit crimes, the complaint states. This is in addition to the untold number of public benefits illegal immigrants receive, regardless of their immigration status, including education, emergency medical services and victim’s services.