Judge temporarily blocks Biden administration's deportation freeze

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its 100-day deportation freeze in one of the first legal battles over the new president's agenda. 

Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will apply nationwide while the lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) plays out.

"Texas has thus far satisfactorily demonstrated it is entitled to immediate and temporary relief from the January 20 Memorandum’s 100-day pause on removals," wrote Tipton, who was appointed by former President TrumpDonald TrumpMedia giants side with Bannon on request to release Jan. 6 documents Cheney warns of consequences for Trump in dealings with Jan. 6 committee Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

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Biden’s freeze, Tipton wrote, “is clearly not in accordance with, or is in excess  of, the authority accorded to the Attorney General.”

Tipton disputed the federal government’s claim that U.S. Code allows the attorney general to pause deportations when a final order of removal has already been issued. This argument, he writes, is based on an interpretation of the statue that “contravenes the unambiguous text.”

“Where Congress uses specific language within its immigration statutes to direct the Attorney General toward a specific result, courts are not free to assume based on a matrix of principles, statutes, and regulations that the Attorney General’s authority is simply ‘a matter of discretion,’” Tipton added.

Paxton announced the lawsuit last Friday, two days after Biden took office.

"If left unchallenged, DHS could re-assert this suspension power for a longer period or even indefinitely, effectively granting a blanket amnesty to illegal aliens that Congress has refused to pass time and time again," Paxton’s complaint reads.

The day before Paxton’s lawsuit, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo that called for the 100-day freeze on most deportations as part of a broader “reset and review” of immigration enforcement throughout the department.

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“This lawsuit should not be allowed to proceed,” Kate Huddleston, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said in a statement.

“Paxton sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by attempting to baselessly suppress votes; now he is attempting to force the Biden administration to follow Trump's xenophobic policies," Huddleston added. "The administration’s pause on deportations is not only lawful but necessary to ensure that families are not separated and people are not returned to danger needlessly while the new administration reviews past actions.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

The Hill has also reached out to Paxton’s office. 

--Updated at 4:37 p.m.