Republican State Attorneys General Battle Biden’s Immigration Rollbacks

Several state Republican attorneys general are seeking court actions to preserve former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies while President Joe Biden works to undo them.

“I think the one thing that is becoming crystal clear with the Biden administration is that they are going all-in on ‘open borders,'” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said, according to The Hill. “It’s troublesome, and I think that, in the long run, this is going to hurt America.”

The court battles come after years of Democrat AGs suing to stop Trump’s immigration policies. Now, the GOP is looking to judges to help keep policies in place that it says protects the public and saves billions in federal tax dollars.

Clashes between the White House and opposition party state AGs are frequent, legal experts say, and some of the recent conflicts can at least partially be traced to continued congressional gridlock on immigration. Into that vacuum, presidents have imposed their agenda using executive action.

During his first week in office, Biden backed legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But he also used his executive powers to stop some of Trump’s policies, sparking legal challenges from Republican state attorneys.

On Biden’s first day, his Department of Homeland Security enacted a 100-day halt on deportations of almost all illegal immigrants. David Pekoske, Biden’s then-acting DHS secretary, said the pause would “ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system focused on protecting national security, border security, and public safety.”

Within days, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, filed suit, saying Biden’s plan, if it wasn’t blocked, would “cause Texas immediate and irreparable harm.” The American Civil Liberties Union, which is backing Biden in the lawsuit, says the president’s order is lawful, however.

“From our perspective, this is really about Texas’s interference in the 100-day pause and attempting to continue the immigration policies of the Trump administration,” Kate Huddleston, an attorney with the ACLU in Texas, told The Hill.

Judge Drew Tipton, who Trump nominated to the bench last year, ruled against the Biden administration, however, and suspended the 100-day deportation ban nationally, finding the administration didn’t offer an adequate legal reason to stop the migrant removals. 

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody also attacked the deportation freeze, saying on March 9 after filing a lawsuit that “the Biden administration’s reckless policy of refusing to do their jobs and deport criminals places all those gains and Floridians’ public safety at risk.”

A dozen GOP state attorneys general are also pushing to preserve Trump’s “public charge” rule, a measure creating high barriers for poor immigrants seeking residency in the United States. 

The rule, enacted in 2019, imposes strict financial requirements on potential immigrants, directing federal authorities to refuse green cards and visas for applicants who could enter the country and need to collect public assistance benefits. 

The Republican AGs say the rule saves more than $1 billion in tax dollars, though critics term it a “wealth test” for immigrants. 

The issue is being litigated in three federal appeals courts and it’s likely to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

State challenges, though, are facing an uphill fight because courts typically see immigration as a federal, not a state, matter. 

Biden has already rolled back several other areas of Trump’s immigration agenda, including stopping construction on Trump’s border wall, ending many travel restrictions and boosting an Obama administration deportation shield for young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.