14 AGs Sue Biden Administration Over Changing Asylum Policy

14 AGs Sue Biden Administration Over Changing Asylum Policy
Asylum seekers pass U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers while crossing an international bridge from Mexico into the United States in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 17, 2021. (John Moore/Getty Images)
The Center Square

Fourteen attorneys general, led by Arizona, Louisiana, and Missouri, have sued the Biden administration for altering immigration policies established by Congress related to the immigration asylum process. They sued the same day Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a separate lawsuit against the administration in federal court in Texas over the same policy.

Attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Carolina joined the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court Western District of Louisiana Lafayette Division.

They are asking the court to halt an administrative rule change that will dramatically transform the asylum and parole process, facilitating the release of more illegal immigrants into the country.

The Department of Homeland Security proposed the Interim Final Rule in late March. Unless halted by the courts, it’s set to go into effect May 31.

The rule change “largely removes federal immigration judges from the asylum review process and instead gives asylum officers within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unprecedented authority to grant asylum to migrants outright,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said. “The new rule not only violates federal laws and bypasses Congress but also drastically erodes asylum integrity safeguards.

“This is nothing more than a radical attempt to set up a system that encourages illegal immigration and undermines the rule of law,” Brnovich added.

Louisiana Attorney General Landry said President Joe Biden is prioritizing non-citizens over Americans with his immigration policies.

“He is once again undermining the rule of law and jeopardizing the safety and security of our country,” Landry said. “This rule will make an already porous border even easier for drugs, human traffickers, and sexual predators to cross.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review David Neil, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Troy Miller with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Tae Johnson, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ur Jaddou, Chief of U.S. Border Patrol Raul Ortiz, and their respective agencies, are named as defendants.

DHS and the Department of Justice argue the changes were proposed “to improve and expedite processing of asylum claims made by noncitizens subject to expedited removal, ensuring that those who are eligible for asylum are granted relief quickly, and those who are not are promptly removed.”

One key change includes authorizing asylum officers to review and rule on asylum applications. Under the law, asylum cases are only adjudicated by immigration judges within the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Due to existing court backlogs, the process for hearing and deciding asylum cases takes several years. Once it’s implemented, DHS and DOJ argue the process will be shortened to several months for most asylum applicants.

“The current system for handling asylum claims at our borders has long needed repair,” Mayorkas said when announcing the rule change last month. “Through this rule, we are building a more functional and sensible asylum system to ensure that individuals who are eligible will receive protection more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be rapidly removed. We will process claims for asylum or other humanitarian protection in a timely and efficient manner while ensuring due process.”

Garland said the new rule will ensure that immigrants who seek asylum are processed fairly and more quickly.

“It will help reduce the burden on our immigration courts, protect the rights of those fleeing persecution and violence, and enable immigration judges to issue removal orders when appropriate,” Garland said.

The Republican AGs argue the changes violate the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Homeland Security Act, the Secure Fence Act of 2006, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“President Biden seems intent on erasing any semblance of control at our southern border, unleashing one disastrous and dangerous immigration policy after another,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said. “Continually incentivizing illegal immigration, as he has done time and again, makes it easier for cartels to smuggle drugs across the border and up to states like Montana.”

The Biden administration also wants to halt Title 42 enforcement effective May 23, though a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against that decision in a separate legal battle. Title 42 is a health authority put in place by former President Donald Trump that allows border agents to quickly expel immigrants seeking asylum during a health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the administration’s repeal of Title 42 enforcement isn’t halted by the courts, the new asylum changes would go into effect eight days later, the attorneys general point out, causing “a massive increase in illegal immigration and non-meritorious asylum claims.” The timing would cause “an exponential increase in illegal border crossings,” they argue, which will “stack a crisis upon a crisis.”

Texas and Missouri also argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asking it to require the administration to fully reinstate the Migrant Protection Protocols, or “Remain in Mexico” policy.

By Bethany Blankley
The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. www.thecentersquare.com
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