Florida sues Biden administration to end catch-and-release policies

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday announced that the state of Florida is suing the Biden administration over its “unlawful and destructive” catch-and-release policies. 

Speaking at a press conference, DeSantis also said he will sign an executive order to prohibit state agencies from “aiding and abetting” the federal government in settling illegal immigrants in Florida. 

The governor criticized President Joe Biden for reversing many of his predecessor’s immigration policies, notably former President Donald Trump’s remain-in-Mexico policy for asylum-seekers and the reimplementation of catch-and-release. 

“The reversal and weakening of our policies have amounted to an open invitation for folks all across the world to just simply come through the southern border illegally and basically get a ticket to ride to the interior of the country,” DeSantis told reporters.

The governor observed that the number of immigration law enforcement encounters at the south west border has risen from 78,000 in January to over 210,000 in July, an increase of 171%.

“That’s the highest monthly total in more than 20 years and there’s no sign of it slowing down. You have another 208,000 in August and that was, again, close to another record,” DeSantis said. 

“It’s very clear that open borders is the Biden administration policy,” he added.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed the lawsuit against the Biden administration Tuesday in the Pensacola Division of the Northern District of Florida, Fox News first reported. Florida is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its sub-agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as DHS Secretary Alejandro Maorkas and officials in charge of ICE, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The lawsuit accuses the Biden administration of “harming the state’s quasi-sovereign interests and forcing it to incur millions of dollars in expenses” by relocating illegal aliens to Florida. The state also argues that the federal government is violating U.S. immigration law by abusing its “parole authority” to release aliens into the interior of the U.S. before their court dates instead of detaining them until a decision is made about whether they may be admitted into the country by claiming asylum. 

“The government is not free to ignore the clear commands of Congress,” the lawsuit states, according to Fox News. “It has claimed that it lacks the resources and detention capacity to process the surge of migrants at the border.”

The lawsuit alleges that Biden’s administration “has actively sought to eliminate measures that increase its resources and detention capacity, such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as the ‘wait in Mexico policy’), and has even asked Congress to reduce the number of immigration detention beds available to it.” 

“Further, it is the Biden administration’s misguided policies that have encouraged more migrants to make the dangerous journey to the United States,” the lawsuit says. “The government cannot, therefore, use a purported lack of resources as an excuse to ignore congressional mandates.”

AG Moody notes in the lawsuit that Florida spends more than $100 million per year incarcerating criminal illegal aliens and also provides a number of other services to illegal aliens including education, substance abuse treatment, crime victim’s services, and emergency medical services. DeSantis said Tuesday that the record-breaking numbers of illegal immigrants coming to the U.S. under Biden’s watch are draining resources needed to maintain these services. 

Fox News reports Florida is asking the court to “hold unlawful and set aside” the federal government’s policy of “releasing arriving aliens subject to mandatory detention, of paroling aliens without engaging in case-by-case adjudication or abiding by the other limits on that authority; and of failing to serve charging documents or initiate removal proceedings against plainly inadmissible aliens who are being released into the interior of the United States.” 

Additionally, Florida wants the court to issue “permanent injunctive relief,” force the Biden administration to enforce to U.S. immigration law, and declare the current policy unlawful. 

“We have a disaster on the southern border that’s been apparent for many, many months. We would like to see the prior policies reinstituted,” said DeSantis. “We’re under no illusion that that’s going to happen, so we’ve got to take every effort we can to make sure we’re protecting the people of Florida and that’s what we’re doing here today.” 

The lawsuit follows a letter DeSantis sent to the Biden administration last month requesting that it stop settling illegal immigrants in Florida. 

A spokesman for DHS told Fox News that the agency’s policy is that single adults and families unlawfully present in the U.S. are removed under Title 42. If Mexico refuses to take the illegal aliens, they are transported to an ICE facility and released into the U.S. with either a notice to appear or a notice to report to an ICE office. 

“As part of the process, Border Patrol agents collect biometric and biographic information – fingerprints, photos, phone numbers, and an address in the United States – and run a background check to identify criminals or those who pose a public safety risk,” DHS said.

Migrants who follow instructions and appear at ICE begin their official immigration processing.

“Those who do not report, like anyone who is in our country without legal status, are subject to removal by ICE,” DHS said.