DHS Policy Encouraging Discretion in Deportations Blocked by Judge

DHS Policy Encouraging Discretion in Deportations Blocked by Judge

Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, 04-04-19. Group of women carrying their children across the Rio Grande to try to cross the border into the United States. (Shutterstock)

By Caroline Vakil, The Hill

A judge in Texas on Friday threw out a policy instituted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last year that directed border officials to exercise discretion in deportation cases.

Introduced last September, the policy encourages officials not to deport noncitizens who have lived in the country for years without incident and to focus on those who have a serious criminal record.

In a scathing 96-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton argued that the policy overstepped the executive branch’s authority regarding immigration enforcement.

“True, the Executive Branch has case-by-case discretion to abandon immigration enforcement as to a particular individual. This case, however, does not involve individualized decision making. Instead, this case is about a rule that binds Department of Homeland Security officials in a generalized, prospective manner—all in contravention of Congress’s detention mandate,” Tipton, an appointee of former President Trump, wrote.

Last September, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas argued both that the policy was just, saying most undocumented immigrants “have been contributing members of our communities for years,” and that it was needed due to limited resources.

“The fact that an individual is a removable noncitizen should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them,” he added. “We focus our resources because they are limited, and because of our dedication to doing justice.”

Tipton pushed back on the argument for the policy based on resource limitations in his ruling.

“It is also true that the Executive Branch may prioritize its resources. But it must do so within the bounds set by Congress. Whatever the outer limits of its authority, the Executive Branch does not have the authority to change the law,” he said.

The decision was cheered by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Texas, who had challenged the policy.

“I just dealt Biden another massive defeat in fed court. He tried to throw out immigration law, saying DHS didn’t have to detain criminal illegals. The court now says he must. I will always hold the line with the Dems and the rule of law,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) tweeted.

“This is a major win for our #NationalSecurity and the #RuleOfLaw!” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) said in his own tweet.

The Hill has reached out to DHS for comment.

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