Fourteen GOP attorneys general sue Biden administration over changing asylum policy

Effort's being led by attorneys general from Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri

Updated: April 29, 2022 - 2:40pm

Fourteen attorneys general, led by Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri, have sued the Biden administration for altering immigration policies established by Congress related to the immigration asylum process.

They filed the suit Thursday, the same day Texas GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a separate lawsuit against the administration in federal court in Texas over the same policy.

Attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Carolina joined the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court Western District of Louisiana Lafayette Division.

They are asking the court to halt an administrative rule change that will dramatically transform the asylum and parole process, facilitating the release of more illegal immigrants into the country.

The Department of Homeland Security proposed the Interim Final Rule in late March. Unless halted by the courts, it’s set to go into effect May 31.

The rule change "largely removes federal immigration judges from the asylum review process and instead gives asylum officers within the Department of Homeland Security unprecedented authority to grant asylum to migrants outright," Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said. "The new rule not only violates federal laws and bypasses Congress but also drastically erodes asylum integrity safeguards."

Attorney General Merrick Garland, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review David Neil, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Troy Miller with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Tae Johnson, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ur Jaddou, Chief of U.S. Border Patrol Raul Ortiz, and their respective agencies, are named as defendants.

DHS and the Justice Department argue the changes were proposed to "improve and expedite processing of asylum claims made by noncitizens subject to expedited removal, ensuring that those who are eligible for asylum are granted relief quickly, and those who are not are promptly removed."

One key change includes authorizing asylum officers to review and rule on asylum applications. Under the law, asylum cases are only adjudicated by immigration judges within the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Due to existing court backlogs, the process for hearing and deciding asylum cases takes several years. Once it’s implemented, DHS and DOJ argue the process will be shortened to several months for most asylum applicants.

Garland said the new rule will ensure that immigrants who seek asylum are processed fairly and more quickly.

The attorneys general argue the changes violate the Immigration and Nationality Act, Homeland Security Act, Secure Fence Act of 2006 and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Biden administration also wants to halt Title 42 enforcement effective May 23, though a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against that decision in a separate legal battle.

Title 42 is a health authority put in place by former President Donald Trump that allows border agents to quickly expel immigrants seeking asylum during a health emergency sych as the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the administration's repeal of Title 42 enforcement isn’t halted by the courts, the new asylum changes would go into effect eight days later, the attorneys general point out, causing “a massive increase in illegal immigration and non-meritorious asylum claims.” The timing would cause “an exponential increase in illegal border crossings,” they argue, which will “stack a crisis upon a crisis.”

Texas and Missouri also argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asking it to require the administration to fully reinstate the Migrant Protection Protocols, or "Remain in Mexico" policy.

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