In anticipation of increased border encounters after the Title 42 health authority is lifted, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz instructed agents to release noncitizens into the U.S. because there would not be enough space to detain them, a memo obtained as part of Florida’s lawsuit against the Biden administration uncovered.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said the memo is more “devastating evidence” that continues to be obtained about “President Joe Biden’s failed immigration policies.”
In a recent deposition, Ortiz admitted the southern border is “currently in a crisis.” Despite that, in a May 19 memo he instructed CBP agents to release “processed noncitizens in the vicinity of nongovernmental organizations” and coordinate with NGOs in advance as to the specific locations where they’d be released, “paying particular attention to the availability of services and transportation options.”
Moody denounced the message contained in the memo.
“The Biden administration’s failed immigration policies are disastrous,” Moody said. “Expecting to be overrun, Biden’s Border Patrol drafted a plan to hunker down and allow inadmissible immigrants to flood into the country. But for the efforts of our office and other responsibly-minded, public-safety oriented attorneys general, Title 42 would have been repealed and Biden would have released untold thousands of additional immigrants into the interior of our country – outrageous!”
The memo continued:
“If safe locations are not available” to release illegal foreign nationals, instead of processing them for removal, Ortiz said CBP would “engage with nearby cities and local governments to identify alternate safe locations for release.”
They were also instructed to be released into the U.S. in a “safe, humane and orderly manner,” not “late at night in an unpopulated area or in circumstances in which the individual would face a known safety risk.”
The only thing stopping CBP from enacting the policy was an injunction put in place by a federal court halting the administration from ending Title 42 one day after the memo was issued. Title 42 is a Trump-era directive to return illegal immigrants to Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 20, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana enjoined the repeal of Title 42 in a case filed by 24 states, including Florida, issuing a nationwide injunction.
Florida’s lawsuit was filed Feb. 1 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division. It names the United States of America, Department of Homeland Security and its Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its commissioner, Chris Magnus, U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement, and its acting director, Tae Johnson, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and its director, Ur Jaddou, as defendants.
While some entering the U.S. illegally have legitimate asylum claims, the lawsuit alleges “many do not. Some are gang members and drug traffickers exploiting the immigration crisis, as evidenced by the skyrocketing amount of fentanyl being seized at the border.” All foreign nationals claiming asylum are required by law to be detained, Moody notes, pending a decision to determine if their claim is valid or not.
“Congress has commanded the Executive Branch to detain arriving aliens until a final decision is made regarding removal” regardless of how the individual enters the U.S. through a port of entry or in-between ports of entry, the lawsuit states. “Even though Congress has spoken unambiguously, the Biden administration is willfully ignoring these requirements. It has released at least 366,000 illegal border crossers since taking office,” as of February 2022.
Among those released into the U.S., DHS disclosed that the more than 48,000 who indicated that Florida was their primary destination failed to check in with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to discovery documents in the case.
“The federal government now has no idea of these individuals’ location or activity – even though most are legally inadmissible,” Moody said.
The federal government was “not only unlawfully releasing aliens” but also “frequently refusing to initiate immigration court proceedings as required by law,” according to the brief. “Taking the challenge policies together, the government is violating clear congressional commands tens of thousands of times per month,” as of February 2022, it states.
Moody and 14 attorneys general have called on Mayorkas to resign, arguing he’s failed to uphold his oath of office and secure the homeland from threats both foreign and domestic.
At an Aspen Security event in July, Mayorkas said “the border is secure. We are working to make the border more secure. That has been a historic challenge.”
In April, when testifying before the House Appropriations Committee, he said, “We inherited a broken and dismantled system that is already under strain … only Congress can fix this. Yet, we have effectively managed an unprecedented number of non-citizens seeking to enter the United States.”
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who questioned Mayorkas, said, “1.2 million people are undetained, free, roaming about the country. They’ve gone before a judge. A judge has issued a final order of removal.
“How many ICE agents do you need to deport them?” he asked Mayorkas.
“Congressman, I think what we need is legislation to fix the broken immigration system,” he replied.
Prior to the hearing, Gaetz asked Mayorkas to provide data about removal proceedings, noting that, “It would take 14.5 years to deport just the aliens DHS has released under the Biden Administration, when we have near 1.9 million aliens eligible for deportation currently.”