Houston — A federal judge late Tuesday indefinitely banned President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations. U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a preliminary injunction sought by Texas, which argued the moratorium violated federal law and risked imposing additional costs on the state.
Mr. Biden proposed the 100-day pause on deportations during his campaign as part of a larger review of immigration enforcement and an attempt to reverse the priorities of former President Donald Trump.
Mr. Biden has proposed a sweeping immigration bill that would allow the legalization of an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. He has also instituted other guidelines on who immigration and border agents should target for enforcement.
Tipton, a Trump appointee, initially ruled on Jan. 26 that the moratorium violated federal law on administrative procedure and that the U.S. failed to show why a deportation pause was justified. A temporary restraining order the judge issued was set to expire Tuesday.
Tipton’s ruling didn’t require deportations to resume at their previous pace. Even without a moratorium, immigration agencies have wide latitude in enforcing removals and processing cases.
But in the days that followed his ruling, authorities deported 15 people to Jamaica and hundreds of others to Central America. The Biden administration has also continued expelling immigrants under a separate process begun by Trump officials, who invoked public-health law due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas American Civil Liberties Union attorney Kate Huddleston reacted angrily to the latest ruling, saying in a statement that, “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton continues to … seek to force the Biden administration to follow the xenophobic policies of former President Trump. Allowing these deportations to continue means that families will be torn apart and that people who have the opportunity to seek relief in the United States will be returned to danger.”
The legal fight over the deportation ban is an early sign of Republican opposition to Mr. Biden’s immigration priorities, just as Democrats and pro-immigrant legal groups fought Mr. Trump’s proposals. Almost four years before Tipton’s order, Mr. Trump signed a ban on travel from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations that caused chaos at airports. Legal groups successfully sued to stop implementation of the ban.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the Biden administration will appeal Tipton’s latest ruling. The Justice Department didn’t seek a stay of Tipton’s earlier temporary restraining order.