With the Biden administration’s first 100 days under way, all eyes are on their plan for immigration reform. President Biden’s new plan for immigration provides a robust, policy-focused plan to improve the immigration process and conditions for immigrants in the United States. Another goal of these reforms is to reduce deportations.
However, despite the administration’s proposed efforts, several hundred immigrants have been deported in the past few days alone. Why did this happen, and what does it mean for immigrants?
Pushback from a Federal Judge
The Biden Administration instructed the Department of Homeland Security (DOS) to enforce a 100-day moratorium on deportation. During this period, all deportations should cease until further notice.
U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued an order against the DOS and Biden’s order on the grounds that it did not provide appropriate justification for a freeze on deportations. The order is in conjunction with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s belief that the moratorium is against federal law.
Paxton argues that the Biden administration’s plan goes against an agreement established by former President Donald Trump, which required consultation with the Texas government before modifying immigration in any way.
In contrast, the Biden administration has argued that this agreement can’t be enforced because “[…] an outgoing administration cannot contract away that power from an incoming administration.”
This is the first of many oppositions to the Biden administration likely to come over the next four years. Many experts expect that Democrats will face similar pushback against their policies that the Republicans faced during Former President Trump’s time in office.
Texas Attorney General Paxton has been vocal about his opinion of President Biden’s plan for change. He has actively opposed the election results and taken a strong stance in favor of conservative and right-wing policies. He is not alone among Texas lawmakers, which could pose future problems for immigration reforms under President Biden. So, what does this mean for immigrants now?
The Immediate Future of Immigration Reform
It is hard to say exactly how this pushback could set the stage for opposition against immigration reform over the next four years. We can, however, see the immediate effects on immigrants awaiting deportation.
The deportation moratorium would have prevented the deportation of hundreds of immigrants. However, due to the order signed by a federal judge in favor of Texas lawmakers, several hundred immigrants have been deported, with more scheduled in the days to come.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has since deported close to 300 people to Central America and Jamaica. Out of the individuals deported, it is unclear how many were considered threats to national security. This is a key consideration for the DOS because those regarded as national security threats should be prioritized for deportation.
Another alarming development is that some immigrants who were sent back by the Department of Homeland Security were expelled instead of deported. This is a quicker process for removal that was put in place by Former President Trump to expedite immigrant removal for public health and safety from COVID-19.
While these deportations are alarming, an even more concerning issue involves one immigrant in particular. Immigration authorities deported a crucial witness in the 2019 massacre in El Paso. This raises questions about deportation at the local level.
Rosa witnessed the mass shooting in an El Paso Walmart that left over twenty people dead. She consented to testify against the gunman in an agreement with the district attorney’s office.
She was recently detained for traffic warrants and deported before she could contact her attorney. Previously, the district attorney’s office released information to her attorney that would be necessary to acquire a visa for crime victims. However, the district attorney’s office released a statement on February 1, 2021, that denied her visa eligibility.
This situation reveals concerning issues in border security at the local level. While the Biden administration’s efforts to freeze deportations are a much-needed move toward immigration reform, cases like Rosa’s tell us that federal efforts to improve the treatment of immigrants in the U.S. and at the border are lacking specific requirements for law enforcement and immigration agents in smaller localities.
Continued pushback from lawmakers like Attorney General Paxton could further complicate the administrations’ efforts to prevent unfair treatment of immigrants. As the country moves forward into the next four years, it will be necessary for federal and state governments to work in tandem to change conditions for immigrants. While easier said than done, bipartisan efforts are more likely to have a positive, lasting effect on immigration in America.
If you are an immigrant, contact the Sebastian Simon Law Group, PLLC.