A Florida federal judge on Thursday night temporarily blocked the Biden administration from releasing migrants into the US without notices to appear in court, arguing that the controversial new policy is similar to one struck down earlier this year.
The temporary restraining order was issued by District Judge T. Kent Wetherell II and took effect at 11:59 p.m. EDT Thursday, corresponding with the expiration of Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that allowed for the swift removal of migrants apprehended crossing the border.
Thousands of migrants were already believed to have been released from Border Patrol custody earlier Thursday under the Biden administration’s new directive to simply start releasing asylum seekers, without giving them court dates to plead their cases or any ability to track where in the country they are.
The restraining order will be in effect for two weeks. The judge noted that the government has “an opportunity to seek an emergency stay from a higher court.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody sued the Biden administration on Thursday arguing that a memo issued by Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz on Wednesday was a “materially identical” policy to Parole + ATD, another Biden administration practice of using humanitarian parole and “alternatives to detention” to mass release migrants, which critics refer to as “catch and release.”
Parole + ATD was struck down by Wetherell in March.
Wetherell indicated that “Florida has a substantial likelihood of success” in challenging the Biden administration’s plan to mass release migrants “because the challenged policy appears to be materially indistinguishable from the Parole+ATD policy vacated in Florida — both in its purpose (reducing overcrowding at border patrol facilities) and manner of operation (releasing aliens into the country without first issuing a charging document placing them in immigration proceedings and simply directing the aliens to report to ICE within a specified period for further processing).”
In Wetherell’s scathing critique of the Biden administration, he calls the crisis at the border a “problem” that is “largely one of [the administration’s] own making through the adoption an implementation of policies that have encouraged the so-called ‘irregular migration’ that has become fairly regular over the past 2 years.”
Federal judge blocks Biden administration from releasing migrants from Border Patrol custody without court order
A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on allowing the Biden administration to release migrants from Border Patrol custody without a court date.
Judge T. Kent Wetherell II imposed a two-week halt on a Biden policy that would release detained migrants on parole. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed the lawsuit Thursday and requested a response before midnight when Title 42 would expire. Moody argued that the new policy was “identical” to a policy enjoined by courts in March and would allow for the rapid release of immigrants into the United States.
Shortly after midnight, Customs and Border Protection released a statement saying it would comply with the court order “and is assessing next steps.” However, CBP expressed frustration with the judge’s decision.
“This is a harmful ruling that will result in unsafe overcrowding at CBP facilities and undercut our ability to efficiently process and remove migrants, and risks creating dangerous conditions for border patrol agents and migrants,” the CBP said.
“The fact remains that when overcrowding has occurred in Border Patrol facilities, Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have used this parole authority to protect the safety and security of migrants and the workforce. Individuals apprehended by CBP are thoroughly vetted against all national security and public safety systems, regardless of how they are processed,” the statement concluded.
Wetherell’s granting of the block came just hours before Title 42 was set to expire. His ruling begins with an indictment of the current border situation, reading, “The Southwest Border has been out of control for the past 2 years. And it is about to get worse because, at midnight tonight, the Title 42 Order expires.”
“The expiration of the Title 42 Order is expected to result in a ‘surge’ of aliens seeking to enter the country because there are reportedly tens of thousands of aliens staged at the Southwest Border waiting for the Title 42 Order to expire so that they can seek to enter the country,” he continued. “And that is on top of the tens of thousands of aliens that have reportedly crossed the border into the country each day over the past few weeks in anticipation of the Title 42 Order expiring.”
Wetherell agreed that a temporary restraining order was valid, as Moody “‘clearly carries the burden of persuasion’ as to the four prerequisites. The Court finds for the reasons that follow that Florida has carried its burden of persuasion.”
GOP lawmakers praised the decision but clarified that it was only a temporary solution.
“Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol could gain control of that border right now, if they had the right policies. I hope the courts will continue to help. We need to do everything we can to get that change in policy,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) told the Washington Examiner at the border.