Arizona’s Brnovich Asks DHS to Cancel Biden’s 100-Day Freeze on Deportations

January 30, 2021 Updated: January 31, 2021

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is asking the federal government to revoke a 100-day moratorium on most deportations that President Joe Biden announced on his first day in office.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a memo on Jan. 20 (pdf) that imposed a 100-day moratorium on most deportations and outlined the categories of immigration offenders who will continue to be subject to arrest and eventual removal, including those who pose a national security risk or are suspected of terrorism or espionage.

Brnovich, in a letter to the DHS, asked the agency to comply with an agreement related to immigration enforcement, which the letter says requires the DHS to “provide 180 days’ written notice, consider [the Arizona Attorney General’s Office’s] input, and provide a detailed written explanation of the reasoning” behind any changes to immigration policy.

The agreement, called the “Sanctuary for Americans First Enactment (SAFE) Agreement” (pdf) was signed in the final days of the Trump presidency by Brnovich, on behalf of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, and Ken Cuccinelli, then the acting deputy secretary of the DHS. It requires the agency to “prioritize the protection of the United States and its existing communities” by enforcing existing immigration laws, including by prioritizing “detention over release of inadmissible and removable aliens” and refusing relief from deportation for illegal immigrants who “pose a danger to the United States.”

The DHS signed similar deals with other states and localities, including Texas. On Jan. 26, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration over the moratorium, marking the first suit against immigration policy changes made by the new president.

“Within 6 days of Biden’s inauguration, Texas has HALTED his illegal deportation freeze,” Paxton wrote in a tweet after the order. “*This* was a seditious left-wing insurrection. And my team and I stopped it.”

The order is a setback for the Biden administration, which has proposed far-reaching changes to immigration laws and enforcement, including a plan to legalize about 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States illegally.

The Biden administration memo cites the ongoing global pandemic and “significant operational challenges” as the rationale behind the deportation moratorium.

“Due to limited resources, DHS cannot respond to all immigration violations or remove all persons unlawfully in the United States,” the memo states.

“In light of those unique circumstances, the department must surge resources to the border in order to ensure safe, legal, and orderly processing, to rebuild fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process, to adopt appropriate public health guidelines and protocols, and to prioritize responding to threats to national security, public safety, and border security,” the memo states.

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