Texas Attorney General Threatens to Sue Biden Administration Over Deportation Freeze

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened on Thursday to sue the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after it announced a temporary pause on deportations.

On Wednesday, DHS Acting Secretary David Pekoske issued a memo calling for an internal review of its policies concerning immigration enforcement. President Joe Biden signed executive orders on Wednesday reforming some immigration policies enacted by the administration of former President Donald Trump. Paxton called the DHS's decision illegal in a Thursday letter to Pekoske.

"This complete abdication of the Department of Homeland Security's ('DHS') obligation to enforce federal immigration law is unlawful and will seriously and irreparably harm the State of Texas and its citizens," Paxton wrote.

"Border states like Texas pay a particularly high price when the federal government fails to faithfully execute our country's immigration laws," Paxton added. "Your attempted halt on almost all deportations would increase the cost to Texas caused by illegal immigration."

Pekoske said the pause, expected to last for 100 days, would allow the DHS to determine its most effective usage of resources.

ken paxton threatens to sue DHS immigration
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened legal action against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Thursday over its 100-day-long halt on deportation. Gabriel Aponte/Getty

The DHS hiatus on immigration does not apply to all undocumented immigrants. If a noncitizen has been determined to be a threat to the U.S. or has voluntarily waived their rights to remain in the U.S., they could still be deported. Individuals that were not present in the U.S. before November 1, 2020 are also still subject to being removed from the country.

In the letter, Paxton said that the DHS should have consulted with Texas before issuing the memo, alleging that the freeze violates an agreement in which Texas agreed to assist the DHS with enforcing immigration laws.

Paxton also posited that the temporary halt on deportations would give the Biden administration the leeway to "grant blanket amnesty" to many undocumented immigrants "with the stroke of a pen and without congressional approval."

Newsweek reached out to the DHS for comment.

According to the Associated Press, Paxton became the subject of an FBI investigation in November 2020 after several members of his office accused him of bribery and abusing the power of his office. Paxton also spoke at the January Stop the Steal rally that preceded the riot at the Capitol building. A supporter of Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, Paxton told the rally crowd that "we will not quit fighting."

On Wednesday, Biden signed a proclamation halting federal funding for the construction of a wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The wall had been a pet project of Trump's. Declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump was able to move roughly $10 billion from the Department of Defense to expedite the wall's construction. At the time, Trump asserted that immigration constituted an "invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country."

Biden's proclamation stated that the border wall was a "waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security." Biden also declared Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the border "unwarranted."

On Wednesday, Biden described the executive orders and proclamations as "starting points," adding that "some of the things we're going to be doing are going to be bold and vital."