Texas Officials Signed Last-Second Agreement to ‘Hamstring’ Biden Immigration Policies

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is in a political row with the Biden administration over a spike in migrant arrivals
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is in a political row with the Biden administration over a spike in migrant arrivals U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Having lost the November 2020 elections, President Donald Trump’s administration was already on the way out. But that didn’t stop Texas officials from reaching an agreement that would go on to disrupt incoming President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, according to a new report.

American Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog, obtained emails between the Department of Homeland Security and officials in Louisiana and Texas, among others, the group said Thursday.

In those exchanges, federal and state officials signed agreements that prevent the federal government from changing immigration policies without getting the approval of certain states.

Those agreements "sought to set in stone [the Trump] administration’s stringent anti-immigration policies," according to American Oversight.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton both signed a draft of the agreement on Dec. 31. DHS officials signed on Jan. 8, less than two weeks before Trump was scheduled to leave office.

“Dubbed Sanctuary for Americans First Enactment agreements, they were an apparent attempt to hamstring the incoming Biden administration’s immigration goals, such as pausing deportations and suspending the policy requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico,” American Oversight said.

On his first day in office, Biden imposed a 100-day moratorium on deportations of some undocumented immigrants. But Paxton sued the administration, alleging that the moratorium was at odds with the agreement between Texas and the DHS.

In late January, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked Biden’s moratorium, as reported by the Texas Tribune at the time.

On Twitter, Paxton bragged about the suit. “Within 6 days of Biden’s inauguration, Texas has HALTED his illegal deportation freeze,” he wrote. “*This* was a seditious left-wing insurrection. And my team and I stopped it.”
Similar agreements were reached with Arizona, according to American Oversight.

Speaking to Buzzfeed News, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Naureen Shah described the agreements between the DHS and the states as "a transparent attempt by Trump officials to tie the Biden-Harris administration’s hands and preserve Trump's grotesque immigration enforcement policy."

The agreements have since been cited in several lawsuits over immigration policy.

“Within 6 days of Biden’s inauguration, Texas has HALTED his illegal deportation freeze." - Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general

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During his first three months in office, Biden has faced harsh backlash from Texas Republicans over an uptick in arrivals on the southern border with Mexico.

Gov. Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Paxton and others have blamed the Biden administration’s policies for the surge, claiming that immigration reforms signaled a green light to migrants hoping to cross the border. They’ve also accused the Biden administration of emboldening Mexican drug cartels.

On Thursday, Abbott called on Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to declare drug cartels “foreign terrorist organizations.”

A day earlier, Abbott took to Twitter and claimed the “federal government has thrust this man-made crisis on states.” He added, “What's happening at the border is not legal, and it needs to end.”

In March, border authorities apprehended some 172,000 people attempting to enter the country, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. According to government statistics, the number of migrants reaching the border started to rise again last April and have recently spiked.

Cruz has been one of the most vocal Texas Republicans to lead the charge against the Biden administration’s immigration policies. “I witnessed firsthand the crisis unfolding,” he tweeted Thursday. “Joe Biden has failed at securing the border.”
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Patrick Strickland is the news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's a former senior reporter at Al Jazeera English and has reported for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.