New York Attorney General Letitia James says she has led a coalition of 16 attorneys general from across the United States in fighting alongside US President Joseph Biden to protect undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants from deportation.
On the first day of the Biden-Harris administration, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo ordering a moratorium on deportations for 100 days, while a thorough review of the DHS’s policies took place.
Two days later, the state of Texas sued the administration, seeking to overturn the moratorium.
Texas is now seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the moratorium while the case makes its way through the courts.
In an amicus brief filed in Texas v. the United States, James leads the coalition in asking the district court to reject Texas’s request for a preliminary injunction and deny the state’s efforts to dictate federal immigration policy through a last-minute “agreement” with the Trump administration.
“This eleventh-hour deal by the Trump administration and the state of Texas is nothing more than a last-ditch effort by the former president on his way out the door to hogtie every other state in the nation while simultaneously punishing immigrants,” James told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) over the weekend.
“As we continue to reel from a public health crisis that has affected every corner of this country, the last thing we should be doing is moving to deport more immigrants — many of whom are working on the frontlines of the pandemic and delivering essential services to Americans nationwide,” she added.
“I am proud to lead this coalition in supporting President Biden’s efforts to freeze deportations, as the administration seeks to reform our nation’s overall immigration policies,” James continued. “As I have done since the beginning of my career, I will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our immigrant communities as we fight for reform.”
As part of a series of sweeping immigration reforms, the Biden-Harris administration halted the deportation of undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants for 100 days on January 20, 2021.
However, days before President Biden took office, the state of Texas entered into an agreement with the Trump administration that sought to hamstring the incoming Biden-Harris administration before it had the opportunity to put in place its own policies and priorities concerning removal.
In the amicus brief — filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas —James leads the coalition in arguing that Texas’ agreement with the previous administration is not only unlawful but that it also presents serious issues related to federal immigration enforcement in New York and the other amici states, which are home to a significant share of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
James said Texas’ request for nationwide enforcement of an agreement that it alone signed with the DHS not only conflicts with federal law but also undermines the sovereignty of its fellow states.
As the amicus brief notes, “an outgoing presidential administration — after losing a national election by millions of votes — cannot handcuff the discretion of a new administration in its efforts to change national policies to reflect the will of the voters.
“In fact, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected attempts to prevent a newly elected executive branch from exercising the authority granted to it by Congress,” the brief states.
Further, Attorney General James and the coalition highlighted the overwhelming contributions undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants bring to the nation.
Specifically, they said that undocumented immigrants contribute about US$6.8 billion in state and local taxes annually.
In addition, they said immigrants — both with and without documentation — are “critically needed employees in essential sectors, including those sectors vital to combatting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis by delivering goods and food, providing technological and human-resources support for telecommuting, offering telehealth and other in-person health care, assisting at grocery stores, and more.”
The coalition said the “agreement was not validly executed by the DHS, as it was signed on behalf of the federal government only by Kenneth Cuccinelli II, who, at the time, was unlawfully acting as a senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary.”
The coalition said several courts, as well as the Government Accountability Office, have already found that Cuccinelli was not lawfully appointed, “because he assumed his role in the violation of two federal acts related to the succession of power: The Federal Vacancies Reform Act and the Homeland Security Act.
“Thus, Cuccinelli’s execution of the agreement with Texas here is in excess of statutory authority and without force or effect,” the coalition said.
While Texas now seeks a preliminary injunction, it was previously successful in garnering a two-week temporary restraining order, which was extended until February 23, 2021, to allow for further briefing.
James said the amicus brief in opposition to Texas’ “unlawful agreement with the Trump administration” is the latest in her opposition to “the many unlawful immigration policies the Trump administration utilized to hurt New York and other states, including sabotaging and seeking to rig the 2020 Decennial Census multiple ways, setting up a family separation policy at the border that sought to separate parents from young children, illegally diverting funding from other needs to build an unnecessary border wall, denying asylum-seekers requesting sanctuary, seeking to arrest immigrants outside state and local courthouses in effect endangering the safety of all New Yorkers, threatening to deport immigrant students who were not attending in-person classes during the peak of the COVID-19 lockdowns, and more.”