The not-so-secretive tool in the anti-immigration force’s toolbox sabotaging immigration policies and related changes by the Biden administration has been its use of the federal judiciary. It’s simple, but effective. Republicans, frequently led by very corrupt Texas attorney Ken Paxton, shop for GOP judges, often those appointed by the insurrectionist former president. They eventually land on the lap of a right-wing Supreme Court. Advocates have dubbed this the “anti-immigrant judicial pipeline.
It’s been devastatingly potent in halting the Biden administration's attempts to implement deportation priorities, continue policies protecting immigrants with deep ties to America, and end anti-asylum policy at the U.S./Mexico border, just to painfully name a couple of examples. But last week, the Biden administration called out this GOP tactic.
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Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern reports that the Justice Department last week slammed “Texas’ ‘blatant’ and shameless ‘judge-shopping,’ urging a transfer to another court ‘in the interests of justice.’” The case in question is a brand new lawsuit launched just last week that seeks to stop the Biden administration’s new parole program for Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan migrants. The program allows nationals to apply to enter the U.S. if they can prove they have a financial sponsor here.
More accurately, Republicans seek to stop the administration’s new parole program for Black and brown migrants, because Republicans didn’t sue to block a version that’s protected Ukrainian refugees. While more than 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion have entered through the Uniting for Ukraine initiative, an infinitesimal number of Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan so far have entered by comparison.
Republicans are not even trying to hide that this is about keeping out non-white migrants, and Paxton himself confirmed this: His Jan. 24 tweet promoting the lawsuit notably singled out Haitian migrants. It’s a two-fold attack. Not only are Republicans opposed to migrants of color, they’re simply not in favor of legal immigration pathways either.
So, Paxton’s again leading this charge, along with the legal firm headed by noted white supremacist and former White House aide Stephen Miller. They shopped the case to Judge Drew Tipton, the Trump appointee who halted President Biden’s 100-day moratorium on deportations. It was one the very first immigration-related actions of his administration. Stern writes that Paxton has taken cases to Tipton more than half a dozen times now, while the very corrupt attorney general has challenged Biden’s immigration policies more than two dozen times overall. It all appears to be, quite unfortunately, entirely legal.
“For nearly two years, the Justice Department largely held its tongue about this abuse of the system,” Stern writes. “Over the past few months, however, its tone shifted.”
Last October, the Biden administration complained that “Oklahoma filed a complaint in Texas about a prisoner in Louisiana—even though the case had literally no connection to Texas.” When it comes to this recent lawsuit, Stern says the department argues the case should go to “where the plaintiff and defendant are located,” which would mean a federal court in either Austin (Tipton is in in Corpus Christi) or Washington, D.C. The Justice Department said that, at the very least, the case should go to a Texas court with a panel of judges.
Tipton is a zealot who will likely laugh at the request, but, you never know. Stern concludes that the administration “has laid out the scheme in which Tipton is a willing participant, forcing him to confront his complicity—really, his collusion—with Republican corruption of the courts. His total lack of integrity thus far certainly does not bode well in this case. But it’s a positive sign that Biden’s Justice Department is ready to bring this fight to the worst offenders, putting judges like Tipton on notice that it will no longer play along.”
Republicans have rolled out their lawsuits under the guise of border security, when this latest lawsuit would have the opposite effect, blocking a policy that U.S. officials have said has already resulted in notable improvements at the border despite being in effect for a relatively short amount of time so far. Officials announced last week that early January figures showed that the number of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans who crossed between ports of entry plummeted 97% compared to the month prior.
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Listen to the latest episode of The Downballot for an in-depth analysis of the 2024 Arizona Senate race and the implications of Kyrsten Sinema's re-election decision. Special guest Victoria McGroary, the Executive Director of BOLD PAC, will also discuss the efforts to prevent losses among Hispanic voters and the fight against disinformation in Spanish language media.