A federal judge on Wednesday agreed with Florida’s Republican attorney in a blistering report that said the White House’s catch-and-release policy violates U.S. immigration law and essentially puts out a welcome mat to illegal immigrants.
The controversial program allowed the Biden administration to quickly release mass amounts of immigrants that illegally cross the U.S.-Mexican border into the U.S. rather than detaining them.
U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell in Pensacola blocked the administration from continuing to implement a 2021 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo that had authorized “alternatives to detention” due to cited overcrowding in detention facilities. These alternatives included ankle bracelets, phone monitoring or check-ins by immigration officers.
Republican have decried the policy as many of these alternative methods have proved faulty with DHS reporting over 350,000 gotaways already in fiscal year 2023, outpacing fiscal years 2022 record numbers.
In a 109-page opinion, Wetherell for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division ruled the program is “due to be vacated” since federal immigration authorities lack the power to implement alternatives on a widespread basis under existing law.
In the scathing report the judge said that the White House had “turned the Southwest Border into a meaningless line in the sand and little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country by prioritizing ‘alternatives to detention’ over actual detention and by releasing more than a million aliens into the country.”
He said that the policy had in effect encouraged illegal aliens to cross the border”
Collectively, these actions were akin to posting a flashing ‘Come In, We’re Open’ sign on the southern border. The unprecedented ‘surge’ of aliens that started arriving at the Southwest Border almost immediately after President Biden took office and that has continued unabated over the past two years was a predictable consequence of these actions.
The administration has said it lacks the resources and detention capacity to process a recent surge of migrants and that Wednesday’s ruling could lead to a significant increase in the number of people held in detention centers.
Moody sued DHS in 2021, claiming its policy, officially known as Parole Plus Alternative to Detention, violates a U.S. law called the Immigration and Nationality Act. More than 100,000 people had been released into Florida as a result of the administration’s policy, forcing the state to incur substantial costs to provide social services, according to the lawsuit.
Moody celebrated the win in a statement following the ruling:
Today’s ruling affirms what we have known all along, President Biden is responsible for the border crisis and his unlawful immigration policies make this country less safe. A federal judge is now ordering Biden to follow the law, and his administration should immediately begin securing the border to protect the American people.
Federal immigration law allows DHS to “parole” migrants rather than detaining them “on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” The administration argued that the 2021 memo was an exercise of that discretion because overcrowding in detention centers amounted to a humanitarian crisis.
Wetherell decided that the policy violated the requirement that the government consider parole on a case-by-case basis.
Florida and 19 other Republican-led states are separately challenging another administration policy that would allow hundreds of thousands of people from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua to be released into the United States rather than detained each year.
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters. Additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal.