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By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday a new lawsuit against the Biden government over its so-called catch-and-release immigration policy.
The defendants named in the lawsuit include the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While the lawsuit is unlikely to result in a swift change in federal government’s border policy, DeSantis complements DeSantis’ tough immigration message as he seeks to get his way on the national political stage on key issues from immigration to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are in a situation in which we have a disaster on the southern border. It’s been evident for many, many months, ”DeSantis told reporters at a press conference Tuesday, outlining steps he is taking to confront the White House on immigration issues.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday by Florida Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody in federal court in Pensacola, Florida alleges that migrants “illegally released” by the Biden government “arrive in Florida or arrive and harm” – under “catch and release “the quasi-sovereign interests of the state and force it to spend millions.”
As a result, the lawsuit seeks, in part, to find both the release of undocumented immigrants subject to civil liability and the release of undocumented immigrants unlawful “without making an individual decision or respecting the other limits of that authority”. The complaint also challenges what it calls “failure to serve charges or initiate deportation proceedings” against “clearly inadmissible” undocumented immigrants released to the United States.
“Catch and Release” refers to the practice of releasing some undocumented immigrants who, once arrested, are not classified as a risk of escape or dangerous, at their own discretion or using surveillance technology. Many undocumented immigrants have lived in the United States for years because the immigration court system is overburdened.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. The White House referred CNN to the Justice Department, which did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Jesse Bless, the federal litigation director for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told CNN on Tuesday that “every time a state tries to take on the federal government, enforcing federal law – it’s an incredibly difficult thing.”
“There is probably no bigger issue or area that is more federal than immigration. Whoever goes in and out of this country is complete – it is actually in the Constitution – I mean, it is fully entrusted to the federal government, ”continued Bless.
“It is one thing to file a complaint where you just have to say things as facts. And getting a final judgment that actually requires evidence is a completely different matter. When I read the complaint, I did not see any evidence attached to the complaint. “
In an effort by the government to distance itself from former President Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration agenda and to send a show of compassion, Biden officials have often sent conflicting messages about who can enter the US and when. The border situation thus remains a political burden for the White House, which is criticized from both the left and the right.
The scope of the challenge came back into focus last month when U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that the agency had met 212,672 people on the US-Mexico border in July, a high of two decades.
The lawsuit also comes after a chaotic scene in Del Rio, Texas – where the Department of Homeland Security last operated regular return flights to Haiti – deep divisions within the Biden administration and among some of the president’s most loyal allies over how to approach the sensitive issue of immigration.
On Tuesday, DeSantis also signed an executive order setting out how Florida state authorities should approach and enforce a range of policies regarding undocumented immigrants. The governor named Larry Keefe, a former US attorney, “Tsar of Public Safety” to “ensure that the measures required by this ordinance and many other things are carried out.”
The CNN Wire
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CNN’s Gregory Lemos contributed to this report.