AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration Tuesday, alleging that federal authorities are illegally declining to take custody of immigrants subject to deportation who are about to be released from Texas prisons.
The result, Paxton argued, leaves Texas in a bind — forced to release "criminal aliens" or continue holding them in custody at taxpayer expense.
"President Biden’s outright refusal to enforce the law is exacerbating an unprecedented border crisis," Paxton said in a statement. "By failing to take custody of criminal aliens and giving no explanation for this reckless policy change, the Biden administration is demonstrating a blatant disregard for Texans’ and Americans’ safety."
Paxton filed the lawsuit on behalf of Texas and Louisiana in federal court in Victoria.
According to the lawsuit, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice typically informs federal immigration officials when an inmate subject to deportation is about to be released.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement follows up with a "detainer" that requires prisons to hold such inmates until they are collected by federal authorities, the lawsuit said.
"But since the inauguration, the Biden administration has rescinded dozens of detainer requests previously issued to TDCJ, and ICE has declined to take custody of dangerous criminal aliens that it had previously sought," the lawsuit said.
Federal law, Paxton argued, requires immigration authorities to take custody of many "criminal aliens," including those with final orders of removal and those convicted of drug offenses and crimes of moral turpitude.
"Despite this, Defendants have refused to take custody of numerous dangerous drug offenders," the lawsuit argued, providing no numbers beyond saying officials rescinded detainers for "dozens" of immigrants in state custody, many who were convicted of drug offenses.
"Defendants are not simply ignoring low-level drug offenses related to personal use: at least four of the convictions for marijuana possession involved at least 50 pounds of the drug," the lawsuit said.
Earlier this year, Paxton successfully sued to overturn a Biden administration directive that blocked most deportations during the first 100 days of Joe Biden's presidency to allow for a comprehensive review of immigration priorities.
U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton of Corpus Christi, appointed by former President Donald Trump last summer, granted the nationwide injunction requested by Paxton, ruling in February that the pause improperly suspended a federal law requiring deportation within certain deadlines.
Tipton also said the order violated federal law because it lacked the legally required analysis on the reasons for the pause or its impact on states like Texas.
Paxton — a conservative Republican who gained fame for a series of lawsuits challenging Obama administration actions and seeking to uphold Trump policies — also sued Biden last month, arguing that the presidential order blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was improper and must be reversed.
The latest lawsuit named as defendants the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, as well as senior immigration officials.