The Attorneys General of Arizona and Montana filed an amended a joint lawsuit Monday alleging that the Biden administration has violated immigration and administrative law. The Attorney General of Florida filed a similar lawsuit on Tuesday. All three complaints allege that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has disregarded its responsibilities and that changes in policy have put people in Arizona, Montana and Florida at risk.
The allegations arise from changes to policies governing the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants. The policy, which began on January 20 and is set to last 100 days, suspends the deportation of any undocumented immigrant unless they have committed crimes such terrorism or espionage. As pointed out in the joint Arizona and Montana complaint, this will result in the release of some detainees due to capacity limits. It is unknown how many people detained by the DHS in Arizona, Montana and Florida could in fact be deportable. The enforcement of policies from the Trump administration resulted in the detention of US citizens and lawful residents.
The DHS policy was announced in a memorandum and affects the DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection, and Citizenship and Immigration Services. The policy was part of a department-wide review of policies and practices. Shortly after the release of the memorandum, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sought a restraining order to delay implementation. A federal appeals court granted the order, but limited it to 14 days. According to the Arizona/Montana complaint, the court in the Texas case concluded that some of the arguments against the policy could have merit. Some of those arguments are raised again in the Arizona/Montana complaint.
As part of the new rules in the policy, deportations will require a consultation with ICE General Counsel followed by the approval of the Director of ICE. The new policy would additionally require the release of anyone currently held in detention who is no longer eligible for deportation.
It is the release of current detainees with which Arizona, Montana and Florida take issue. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich claims that the release of detainees will increase the strain on social services within the state. Further, he claims that the release will exacerbate the financial burden already on state law enforcement. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen argues that the release of detainees will cause a rise in drug trafficking associated with undocumented immigrants. This is a statewide problem, and, according to Knudsen, will strain state law enforcement resources. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody claims that the policy will result in the release of “dangerous drug traffickers, violent offenders, and other serious criminals into Florida and the nation’s communities to wreak havoc and victimize anew.”