Biden’s push to arrest fewer immigrants wins round in court

By Ellen Gilmer

President Joe Biden’s push to loosen the Trump administration’s tough policies on locking up unauthorized immigrants gained momentum with a court ruling Wednesday.

A federal appeals court said the Biden administration’s provisional policy on relaxing protocols for detaining and arresting migrants shouldn’t have been blocked in August by a lower-court judge in Texas.

The three-judge panel’s decision marks a rare victory for the Democratic president’s immigration agenda, which has suffered multiple legal setbacks in challenges by mostly southern GOP-led states.

Biden officials adopted the temporary enforcement priorities shortly after taking office, reversing the Trump administration’s broader and more punitive approach to immigration detention and deportation proceedings. The new policy directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to focus on arresting and deporting individuals flagged as national security or public safety threats.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have criticized the policy, saying it interferes with the ability of ICE agents to arrest and deport criminals. The Biden administration and its allies say the government is entitled to discretion in how it uses its enforcement resources.

Wednesday’s ruling allows ICE to continue relying on the Biden policy in most cases while the litigation proceeds. The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals preserved a narrow part of the lower court’s ruling requiring ICE to detain undocumented immigrants who are already subject to detainers or removal orders.

The Department of Homeland Security plans to issue final enforcement priorities as soon as this month to replace the temporary policy at issue in the litigation.

The appeals panel is comprised of two judges appointed by former President Barack Obama, James Graves and Gregg Costa, and one who was put on the bench by former President George W. Bush, Leslie Southwick. The August ruling was by U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, of Victoria, Texas, who was appointed by Donald Trump.


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