Texas wants migrant kids expelled or detained in new suit

The state teamed with Stephen Miller's group in legal challenge against the Biden administration's immigration policies

Stephen Miller, the former Trump administration adviser known for his restrictionist views on immigration, arriving at a May 2019 Republican Senate policy luncheon in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Stephen Miller, the former Trump administration adviser known for his restrictionist views on immigration, arriving at a May 2019 Republican Senate policy luncheon in the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 23, 2021 at 2:16pm

Texas teamed up with a group created by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller to launch its latest attack against the Biden administration’s immigration policies, asking a federal court to require all migrants at the border to be turned away or detained, including children arriving alone.

The new lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenges the administration’s decision to exempt unaccompanied children from a public health directive called Title 42. First issued at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the directive allows border officers to rapidly “expel” migrants who cross the border without first considering their claims for protection.

The Biden administration has kept in place that order, but decided against applying it to children who arrive without their parents. The federal government has also been limited in its ability to expel families with young children under the order by Mexico’s refusal to accept them.

Texas claims that certain migrants not expelled under the order must be detained — at least for 14 days — if they may have a “communicable disease of public health significance.” Instead, the government is quickly releasing most families picked up at the border, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The Biden administration’s decision against using Title 42 on all migrants “results in the release of aliens into Texas — threatening the health and safety of all Texans,” the state claims. Texas also alleges the increase in migrants to the U.S. will force the state to incur “significant health care and related economic costs.”

“President Biden’s outright disregard of the public health crisis in Texas by welcoming and encouraging mass gatherings of illegal aliens is hypocritical and dangerous. This reckless policy change stifles the reopening of the Texas economy at a time when businesses need it the most and when our children need to get back to in-person learning as soon as possible,” Paxton said in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed with the support of the America First Legal Foundation, an advocacy group founded by Miller, the former Trump administration adviser known for his restrictionist views on immigration.

In addition to lawyers with Paxton's office, the complaint was filed by Gene Hamilton, vice president of the America First Legal Foundation and a former Justice Department official instrumental in the Trump administration’s policy to separate migrant families at the border.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of lawsuits brought by Texas and other Republican attorneys general seeking to undermine President Joe Biden’s immigration agenda.

Texas and other states have previously filed lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s since-blocked 100-day deportation moratorium and decision to terminate the former Trump administration's program requiring migrants to “remain in Mexico” while waiting for decisions in their U.S. immigration court cases.

State coalitions have also turned to the federal courts to request the revival of the “public charge” rule, a Trump-era policy that allowed immigration officers to deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to need public benefits in the future.

The newest lawsuit drew fast condemnation from immigrant advocates and others, including Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat whose district includes El Paso.

“It’s not enough that white nationalist Stephen Miller crafted evil, inhumane policies like family separation. Now he wants vulnerable unaccompanied immigrant children [sent] to a country that isn’t their own,” she wrote on Twitter.