TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal appeals court this week ruled that the Biden administration still cannot implement certain immigration policies at the southern border, saying the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t gone far enough to prove they are warranted.
The Monday decision from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta marks another policy win for Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is spearheading the lawsuit through state Attorney General Ashley Moody as a protest to President Joe Biden’s handling of immigration.
In denying a court stay seeking to allow DHS to release some asylum-seekers into the U.S. on a “parole” basis with limited supervision as the legal battle continues, the appeals judges determined that the federal government failed to make their case, citing a lengthy delay in appealing a prior court ruling and less action at the border than was originally forecast.
“The department’s ability to ascertain future harm is uncertain at best,” the judges wrote in an 8-page order. “Given this record, we take DHS’s latest claims of impending disaster if it is not allowed to use either of the challenged policies with some skepticism.”
The appeals court action stems from a 2021 lawsuit brought by Moody against the Biden administration targeting immigration policies put in place shortly after the president entered office. The challenge claims that federal authorities were ignoring a federal law that requires people entering the country illegally to be detained and that undocumented migrants coming into Florida were costing the state.
U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell in March ordered federal immigration authorities to revamp their Parole Plus Alternatives to Detention, known as “Parole + ATD,” policies, slamming the Biden administration for what he called an “unsustainable” crisis on the nation’s southern border. Wetherell was appointed to his current post by former President Donald Trump.
The federal government has since been unable to enforce the immigration measures, as Wetherell denied a court stay sought by the Biden administration in May before the case eventually headed to appeals court.
The Biden administration, on appeal, pushed back against Wetherell’s ruling, calling it “harmful” and alleging that it will lead to “unsafe overcrowding” at U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities while also undercutting the country’s ability to process and remove migrants, undercut “creating dangerous conditions” for Border Patrol agents and migrants alike.
But in rejecting the Biden administration’s latest stay attempt, the majority of appeals judges disagreed.
The panel determined that recent data from the border “casts further doubt” on arguments from feds claiming the ruling is causing irreparable harm, noting that “contrary to DHS’s catastrophic predictions,” encounters with aliens at the border “fell significantly” after Title 42 expired May 11.
Further, the court called into question how the feds waited nearly 60 days to appeal the original ruling, a timeline that brushed up against the coming termination of Title 42.
“In this context, i.e., where DHS frames its concerns over its tools in detaining aliens at the border in terms of national security, that delay of several months greatly undermines the department’s position,” the panel of appeals judges wrote.
The decision was written by Judge Barbara Lagoa and joined fully by Judge Robert Luck. Judge Jill Pryor dissented in part, writing that she would have granted a stay on the Parole with Conditions policy.
Lagoa and Luck are former Florida Supreme Court justices who were appointed to the appeals court by Trump. Pryor, meanwhile, is an appointee of former President Barack Obama.
There is currently no hearing scheduled for the immigration lawsuit.