A federal judge on Thursday blocked a pair of directives by the Biden immigration seeking to limit deportations to recent border-crossings and immigrants with serious criminal records. File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 19 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Thursday blocked Biden administration immigration enforcement priorities limiting who border agents should seek to deport.
U.S. District Court Judge Drew Tipton issued a 160-page ruling barring federal officials from enforcing two directives instructing Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to prioritize arresting migrants who recently crossed the border as well as those deemed threats to public safety or national security.
"Government has instructed federal officials that 'shall detain' certain aliens means 'may detain' when it unambiguously mean[s] must detain," Tipton wrote. "Thus, the court inquires whether the executive branch may direct officials to enforce a law enacted by Congress in a way that is contrary to the plain language of the law. That inquiry yields a clear answer: it may not."
The guidelines laid out in February determined that immigrants living in the United States without U.S. legal status would be deemed a threat to public safety if they have been convicted of an aggravated felony or are engaged in criminal activity, such as being part of a gang or transnational criminal organization.
Texas, Missouri and other states argued the rules would prevent ICE from pursuing other immigrants with criminal histories and Tipton ruled that they could lead to ICE officers violating laws that govern the detention of immigrants awaiting deportation.
"The states point out that the priority categories enumerated in these Memoranda omit certain others -- namely, aliens convicted of serious drug offenses, aliens convicted of crimes of moral turpitude and aliens subject to a final order of removal," Tipton wrote.
Tipton also ruled that the enforcement priorities were enacted in violation of federal administrative law as they should have been implemented through regulations open to public comments.
Thursday's ruling is the latest setback to Biden's immigration policy as last week a federal judge ordered the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era policy requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings.