A group of Texas sheriffs sued the Biden administration last week for restricting the authority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take and deport illegal immigrants.
Sheriffs from the border counties of Kinney, Edwards, McMullen, and Hudspeth in Texas along with an association of ICE officers accused the Biden administration of violating federal immigration law with its restrictions on ICE operations.
“As part of President Joe Biden’s pledge to take a more humane approach to immigration enforcement compared to the harsh policies of former President Donald Trump, the Biden administration issued a memo Feb. 18 directing ICE to focus on deporting immigrants who are national security or terrorist threats, gang members, those who have been convicted of certain aggravated felonies and any that entered the country after Nov. 1,” Courthouse News reports. “ICE officers who want to take into custody jailed immigrants falling outside those categories must first obtain approval from their bosses.”
The lawsuit states that the Biden administration’s action has blocked ICE agents from taking into custody illegal immigrants accused of crimes such as human trafficking and drug smuggling.
“Since the issuance of the February 18 Memorandum, ICE officers have been unable to take custody of, or issue detainer requests for, dangerous criminal aliens whose detention is mandated by the [Immigration and Nationality Act]. Specifically, detention is required for aliens who have committed or been convicted of numerous crimes other than aggravated felonies, such as: crimes of moral turpitude, crimes involving controlled substances, human trafficking, money laundering, and certain firearm offenses,” the lawsuit states.
In May, ICE officials told The Washington Post that Biden had “functionally abolished” the agency by restricting its operations so much. The Post reported at the time:
Under new Biden administration rules curtailing immigration enforcement, ICE carried out fewer than 3,000 deportations last month, the lowest level on record. The agency’s 6,000 officers currently average one arrest every two months.
ICE under President Biden is an agency on probation. The new administration has rejected calls from some Democrats to eliminate the agency entirely, but Biden has placed ICE deportation officers on a leash so tight that some say their work is being functionally abolished.
As ICE deportations have plummeted, the number of people entering the U.S. illegally has spiked under the Biden administration.
Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris in March to head the administration’s response to the border crisis. Since the announcement, Harris has faced a heavy criticism from officials in some border states as the border crisis continues. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich called on Biden to fire Harris as the administration’s “border czar” in May.
“To date, her response to the border crisis has been absolutely abysmal, so I am requesting that she be replaced as your ‘border czar,’” Brnovich wrote in a letter. “We are not nearly 50 days into her appointment, and Vice President Harris has shown little interest in observing what is happening along the border and has failed to articulate any plan to deal with the devastating effects of this crisis.”
The White House has blamed the ongoing border crisis on former President Donald Trump, claiming its policies led to the surge in immigration that began after Biden won the election last year.
“After coming into office, our administration immediately jumped into action to address the influx of migrants at the border, something that began during and was exacerbated by the Trump administration,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press conference May 4.