Federal judge rules Biden’s border parole policy illegal

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A federal judge on Wednesday vacated a Biden administration policy that released asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border rather than detaining them.

Judge T. Kent Wetherell II, who was nominated by former President Trump, ruled that the policy, which its Republican critics condemned as “catch and release,” violated the Immigration and Nationality Act and tore into the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border.

“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,” Wetherell ruled, according to court documents.

In 2021, when the Biden administration implemented the policy — which released many migrants into the country as they awaited immigration proceedings — officials cited a need to relieve overcrowding in detention facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal law gives the government discretion to temporarily “parole” migrants, but Wetherell said the policy violated statutory requirements to consider those decisions only on a case-by-case basis.

The administration’s policy also ran afoul of the law’s requirements for the parole to be “for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit” and for migrants to be returned to custody once the purposes of parole have been served, the judge ruled.

Wetherell at multiple points in his opinion took broad aim at the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border amid a surge of migrants.

“Collectively, these actions were akin to posting a flashing ‘Come In, We’re Open’ sign on the southern border,” Wetherell said of Biden’s border policies. “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.”

In 2021, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) sued over the policy, formally known as “Alternatives to Detention.” She also challenged a separate border measure that the judge said was unlawful but not subject to judicial review, leaving it intact.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment.

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