Federal judge rules Biden's border policies illegal, like a flashing 'Come In, We're Open' sign

In a scathing 109-page opinion, U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell ruled the Biden administration’s “catch-and-release” policy is unlawful and “due to be vacated.”

Published: March 8, 2023 6:40pm

Updated: March 8, 2023 8:26pm

(The Center Square) -

A federal judge in Florida handed state Attorney General Ashley Moody a major win on Wednesday in her lawsuit filed against the Biden administration over its “catch and release” policy, releasing foreign nationals in the country illegally into the U.S. instead of deporting them.

Moody argued since she filed the lawsuit in March 2021 that the program is illegal. On Wednesday, a federal judge agreed.

In a scathing 109-page opinion, U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division ruled the Biden administration’s “catch-and-release” policy is unlawful and “due to be vacated.” He also denied the administration’s motion for summary judgment, vacated the administration’s “Parole+ATD” Policy under the Administrative Procedures Act, and gave the administration seven days to seek appellate review and comply with federal law and his ruling.

Wetherell, of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Florida, ruled, “The Court finds in favor of Florida because, as detailed below, the evidence establishes that Defendants have effectively turned the Southwest Border into a meaningless line in the sand and little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country by prioritizing ‘alternatives to detention’ over actual detention and by releasing more than a million aliens into the country – on ‘parole’ or pursuant to the exercise of ‘prosecutorial discretion’ under a wholly inapplicable statute – without even initiating removal proceedings.”

The judge also said of the administration’s policies: “Collectively, these actions were akin to posting a flashing ‘Come In, We’re Open’ sign on the southern border. The unprecedented ‘surge’ of aliens that started arriving at the Southwest Border almost immediately after President Biden took office and that has continued unabated over the past two years was a predictable consequence of these actions. …

“Thus, like a child who kills his parents and then seeks pity for being an orphan, it is hard to take Defendants’ claim that they had to release more aliens into the country because of limited detention capacity seriously when they have elected not to use one of the tools provided by Congress in §1225(b)(2)(C) and they have continued to ask for less detention capacity in furtherance of their prioritization of ‘alternatives to detention’ over actual detention.”

Moody said the ruling confirms what she has been saying for two years.

“Today’s ruling affirms what we have known all along, President Biden is responsible for the border crisis and his unlawful immigration policies make this country less safe,” Moody said. “A federal judge is now ordering Biden to follow the law, and his administration should immediately begin securing the border to protect the American people.”

Throughout the course of litigation, various Biden administration policies were exposed. Last August, in one deposition, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified the southern border was “currently in a crisis” as a result of Biden administration policies. By September, Florida made public a memo issued by Ortiz instructing agents to release noncitizens into the U.S. en masse because there wouldn’t be enough space to detain them.

Another deposition of another top federal official revealed that that ICE agents were removing seven times fewer people who entered the U.S. illegally in the past year than the agency did 10 years ago. ICE was also only detaining about half the number of people it did during the Trump administration and 40% less the number of people who entered the U.S. illegally than it did during a 2019 border surge, according to the testimony.

Another piece of evidence released by Moody related to Biden administration policies repealing processing pathways of the MPP, ACA and PACR, which impacted Border Patrol agents’ ability to expeditiously process and remove illegal foreign nationals. Restrictions were also put in place regarding detention that forced agents to release hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals into the U.S. instead of deporting them.

The case went to trial in January and lasted one week. On the first day, Moody’s legal team presented “bombshell evidence that the federal government wrongfully withheld until just before the trial” showing the administration’s plan to release people en masse into the U.S.

The ruling comes as U.S. Customs and Border Protection Miami Sector reported a 500% increase in apprehensions in fiscal 2022 compared to fiscal 2021, and as U.S. Coast Guard crews off the coast of Florida are on track to break last year’s apprehension records.

In January, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency and last month introduced sweeping border security measures.

"Florida is a law and order state, and we won’t turn a blind eye to the dangers of Biden’s Border Crisis,” DeSantis said. “We will continue to take steps to protect Floridians from reckless federal open border policies."

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