Florida and federal government fight over immigration law enforcement – CBS Miami


TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami / NSF) – On Friday, an appeals court appeared skeptical of arguments by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office that the Biden administration’s immigration enforcement measures violated the federal law and should be blocked.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals held a hearing on the state’s preliminary injunction request against the Biden administration. A federal district judge dismissed the request in May, prompting Moody to go to the Atlanta appeals court.

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The lawsuit focuses heavily on memos issued Jan. 20 and Feb. 18 by the US Department of Homeland Security and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding immigration law enforcement. The memos establish enforcement priorities, including focusing on immigrants who pose a threat to national security, have been convicted of aggravated crimes, or have been convicted of gang-related activities.

But Florida Solicitor General Henry Whitaker argued in Friday’s hearing that the Biden administration violated a 1996 law that requires authorities to detain and deport certain “criminal aliens.” The state maintains that the memos led Florida to release criminals at the end of their sentences because immigration officials won’t keep them.

“The question here is whether, when presented with such an alien on a silver platter, so to speak, the government has an obligation to take action consistent with the mandatory directive of Congress,” Whitaker said. .

But judges stressed that authorities have discretion in law enforcement – and that there was a shortage of beds where immigrants could be held before possible deportation.

“All the (federal) government is seeking to do in this matter is to prioritize the elimination of those who pose a threat to the security of the United States,” Justice Charles Wilson said, before to wonder “why the state of Florida would even want the Department of Homeland Security not to prioritize.

Likewise, Judge Robin Rosenbaum pointed to situations where “decisions must be made” amid limited prosecution resources.

“Isn’t that in all cases where it is the discretion given to the executing authority to decide its priorities and how to use its limited resources? Rosenbaum asked.

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US Department of Justice attorney Thomas Byron, who represented the Biden administration, called Florida’s preliminary injunction request “extraordinary.”

“It is particularly extraordinary that Florida seeks an injunction that would limit the deeply ingrained discretion that the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized” in other cases, said Byron.

Moody and Governor Ron DeSantis have strongly criticized the Biden administration over immigration issues, with Moody filing a complaint in March. In addition to claiming that the administration violated immigration law, Moody’s office maintains that it violated what is known as the Administrative Procedure Act.

But in the May ruling dismissing the preliminary injunction request, U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell ruled that the Biden administration’s immigration memos were “interim policies” that were not final actions of federal agencies and, therefore, were not subject to judicial review. She also wrote that the memos prioritize immigration law enforcement decisions.

“The guidelines are just that; they are not laws and do not have the status of law because they are a priority and not a prohibition of execution, ”wrote Honeywell, judge of the Middle Federal District of Florida. “The policies do not change any person’s legal status nor prohibit the application of any law or the detention of a non-citizen. The prioritization scheme does not necessarily have a direct impact on Florida day to day, although an indirect impact can certainly be claimed.

While it’s not clear how long the appeals court will take to rule on the case, Byron has suggested the dispute may become moot as the Biden administration is expected to issue revised guidelines next week.

But Whitaker said he would wait to see what is released and noted that federal officials had missed earlier deadlines.

“I guess I’ll believe it when I see it, and we can go from there,” Whitaker said. “But I’m not going to take a position on what should happen without knowing what the guidelines are.”

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