A federal judge in Florida has struck down the Biden administration’s use of policies to mass release migrants into the U.S. interior, finding the practice unlawful and accusing the administration of turning the border into a “meaningless line in the sand.”
Judge T. Kent Wetherell ruled in response to a lawsuit from the state of Florida, which alleged the administration’s mass release of migrants via humanitarian parole into Alternatives to Detention — known as “Parole +ATD” — is unlawful.
In a scathing opinion Wednesday, Wetherell stated the Biden administration had “effectively turned the Southwest Border into a meaningless line in the sand and little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country.”
Additionally, Wetherell ruled that the policies implemented by the Biden administration, including catch and release, had contributed to the degradation of the border as a means to keep illegal migrants out.
“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,” Republican Florida Attorney General Moody said in a statement following the ruling.
The administration had been increasingly using parole — which statute says is supposed to be used on a “case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit” — to release migrants quickly into the interior to reduce overcrowding at the border as it deals with historic migrant numbers at the border.Florida contended that the government is violating statutory mandates that migrants be detained. The administration had argued that there is no “non-detention policy.”
“The evidence establishes that Defendants have effectively 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—on “parole” or pursuant to the exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” under a wholly inapplicable statute—without even initiating removal proceedings,” the judge said.
The Biden administration had ended family detention of migrants in 2021, although it is reportedly considering reintroducing the practice when Title 42 ends in May. Title 42, which allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border due to COVID-19, will end in May with the ending of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The administration, facing more than 1.7 million migrant encounters in FY 2021 and over 2.3 million in FY 2022, had looked for ways to more quickly release migrants into the U.S. interior. The typical way of releasing migrants, using a Notice to Appear that sets a court date, took much longer and was leading to overcrowding at the border.
The ruling stays the order for seven days to allow for an appeal, but could potentially have massive implications if there is a surge in migrants when Title 42 ends — as administration officials have previously predicted.