President Biden’s ambitious plan to reset the domestic agenda by executive order has hit its first legal snag: On Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new administration from enforcing its 100-day ban on most deportations.
The ruling from U.S. district judge Drew Tipton blocks the Department of Homeland Security from stopping deportations, except for those pertaining to national security and those who have been apprehended after entering the country after November 1 — as Biden’s executive order on Inauguration Day dictated. Tipton’s order is in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, who sued two days into the new administration to stop the deportation ban. Contesting the policy, Paxton cited an eleventh-hour state agreement with the Department of Homeland Security designed to frustrate efforts to rescind the former president’s policies.
In the restraining order, Tipton wrote that the Biden administration failed “to provide any concrete, reasonable justification for a 100-day pause on deportations.” The Trump appointee also added that the lawsuit filed by Paxton “establishes a substantial risk of imminent and irreparable harm to Texas” and that the agreement between Texas and the federal government must be upheld to preserve the “status quo.” The agreement, signed on January 8, states that the DHS must consult with Texas and other states before enforcing any policies to “reduce, redirect, reprioritize, relax, or in any way modify immigration enforcement.” In a court filing countering Paxton’s lawsuit, the Biden administration argued that the agreement cannot be adhered to because “an outgoing administration cannot contract away that power for an incoming administration.”
Paxton, who was charged with securities fraud in 2015, appears ready to maintain the status he earned during the Obama and Trump years as a legal champion for the GOP. Under Obama, he led challenges against DACA, the Clean Power Plan, and the use of Title IX to enforce transgender rights in public schools. Under Trump, he filed an amicus brief in favor of the travel ban from Muslim-majority nations and a motion to limit voter-expansion efforts during the pandemic — and led a legal effort attempting to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania.
While Judge Tipton’s restraining order blocks the partial deportation ban Biden promised during the campaign, it does not affect other aspects of the president’s immigration policy, including the end to the Trump travel ban and a plan to provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants currently in the U.S.