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Biden's 100-Day Deportation Moratorium Blocked By Federal Judge


A federal judge in Texas has blocked President Biden's 100-day moratorium on deportations of unauthorized immigrants. Biden had campaigned on reversing President Trump's tough immigration policies. But the Trump administration built in obstacles to hamstring his successor. NPR's John Burnett has more.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: The Texas lawsuit is the Biden administration's first legal headache in the arena of immigration. And it won't be the last.

MUZAFFAR CHISHTI: I think this was clearly an attempt to handcuff the Biden administration, at least in the beginning of its term.

BURNETT: Muzaffar Chishti is a senior fellow with the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute.

CHISHTI: And I think the Trump administration in its waning days tried to do everything it could to prevent the Biden administration from ushering in its new immigration policy.

BURNETT: The outgoing Trump administration quietly signed highly unusual agreements with at least four states, Texas chief among them. The agreements say, in essence, that if Biden officials want to make changes to some of Trump's immigration rules, they have to consult with the states first. Immigration advocates were quick to brand the lawsuit baseless and said it won't withstand appeal. But the argument carried the day with Corpus Christi federal judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee. He wrote that the release of deportable immigrants in Texas, quote, "establishes a substantial risk of imminent and irreparable harm."

He slapped a temporary restraining order on the Biden administration and said Texas has 14 days to come back and make its case for a preliminary injunction. No comment from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The ACLU groused in a statement Texas is trying to force the Biden administration to follow Trump's xenophobic policies. Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton exulted in what he described as the first victorious lawsuit against the Biden White House.

Texans have been here before. It was Ken Paxton and his predecessor, Greg Abbott - now governor - who filed at least 40 lawsuits against the last Democratic administration. The Texas AG's office spent millions suing Obama. Paxton has been a fervent Trump ally. In early December, he sued four other states for election fraud without evidence. And the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider it. He also attended Trump's fateful January 6 rally at the White House Ellipse, exhorting the crowd Texans are fighters and President Trump is a fighter. R.G. Ratcliffe is a political writer at Texas Monthly.

RG RATCLIFFE: He's been doing it for so long now that at one point in time, his wife used to sing the song where she described herself as a pistol-packing mama whose husband sued Obama. He has started all over again. And it does a very good political job of covering up his own shortcomings.

BURNETT: Paxton's legal problems include an FBI criminal investigation into whether he abused his office to benefit a high rolling donor. His top deputies resigned in protest. And he's under indictment for charges of state securities fraud. Paxton has denied any wrongdoing, refused calls to resign. And he promises to keep suing the Biden administration. John Burnett, NPR News, Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.