Montana Joins Lawsuit to Stop Dangerous Biden Administration Immigration Policy
HELENA – Attorney General Austin Knudsen announced today that the State of Montana has joined a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its dangerous immigration policy that halts nearly all deportations for 100 days, even for those charged with or convicted of crimes. Arizona and Montana also filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking the court to stop the DHS policies from being implemented.
The original complaint filed by Arizona challenged the DHS Memorandum issued on the first day of the Biden Administration, called the “immediate 100-day Pause on Removals.” In addition to the DHS policy, Arizona and Montana are also now challenging the “Interim Guidance” issued by the Acting Director of ICE on February 18, 2021, which tries to supersede the original Memorandum but does not substantively change the policy to pause nearly all deportations of those who entered the country before November 1, 2020.
The amended complaint alleges that the original Memorandum and the Interim Guidance were promulgated without providing notice to Arizona and Montana, in violation of each State’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DHS. Additionally, both policies are in direct violation of federal law, 8 U.S.C. § 1231, that requires an alien, who has received a final deportation order, to be removed from the United States within 90 days.
The DHS Memorandum states it is to be in effect for 100 days, and the Interim Guidance states it is to be in effect for 90 days, but no apparent limiting factor is explained. If this action is permitted to stand, DHS could implement these policies for a longer period or even indefinitely, thus allowing the current Administration to unilaterally amend immigration laws without the required congressional action.
In a filed declaration, DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation Administrator Brian Lockerby states that nearly all of the methamphetamine available in Montana originates in Mexico from drug cartels. Further, law enforcement has confirmed via arrests that cartel members were smuggling meth into Montana. Pausing removals is likely to “increase the infusion of drugs into Montana, increase drug-related violent and property crimes, and harm the State’s effort to promote public safety and health.”
“Meth trafficked into Montana by Mexican drug cartels has wracked our state. The problem will only be made worse if the Biden administration continues to allow criminals to stay in the country,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said. “Enforcing our immigration laws and helping to keep Americans safe is one of the federal government’s most important functions. The Biden administration is failing its basic responsibility to Americans.”
“If asked about the poorest policy choice I’ve ever seen in government, this would be a strong contender,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Blindly releasing thousands of people, including convicted criminals and those that may be spreading COVID-19 into our state, is both unconscionable and a violation of federal law. This must be stopped now to avoid a dangerous humanitarian crisis for the immigrants and the people of Arizona.”
The preliminary injunction notes that DHS did not engage in any prior consultation with anyone—inside or outside the federal government—about the anticipated effects and costs of the Removal Moratorium, including the number of aliens with final removal orders who will be released from ICE custody and the detrimental impacts on public safety, health, and state and local finances from such releases. Further, DHS made no attempt to follow the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment procedures in issuing the Memorandum/Removal Moratorium.
The motion includes declarations from Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Mark Napier, President for the Yuma Medical Center Dr. Robert Trenschel, and Administrator of the Division of Criminal Investigation at the Montana Department of Justice Bryan Lockerby. These declarations illustrate the harms Arizona and Montana will suffer under the new DHS policies, including increased availability of illegal narcotics, unreimbursed costs related to incarceration and healthcare costs.