By Bethany Blankley
(The Center Square) – Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said her office received “bombshell new evidence” that the Biden administration “wrongfully withheld” from her office until just days before they went to trial on Monday.
Her office filed a lawsuit last year against the Biden administration over altering federal immigration deportation policy, including expanding a parole program President Joe Biden announced last week that he planned to expand. Moody is asking the court to halt the administration’s implementation of the policy, arguing it violates federal law and is unconstitutional.
Her team presented the new evidence on Monday as part of Florida’s case heard by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division that “the federal government wrongfully withheld until just before trial,” she said.
Her office received the information only through a Freedom of Information Act request, she said, when it should have received it during the discovery process. Had her office not filed the FOIA request, she said, “the damning evidence would not come to light or be part of the State’s vital litigation to force the Biden administration to follow the law, secure the border and protect the American people.”
Moody is referring to copies of four pages of emails obtained by her office from the Department of Homeland Security in which officials include talking points for Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz to use when discussing releasing illegal foreign nationals into the U.S. en masse. The emails are dated Jan. 28, 2021, eight days after Biden took office.
The talking points are consistent with testimony given by Ortiz in a deposition last year in which he confirmed there was a border crisis and agents were required to release people en masse into the U.S.
One email explains the situation agents were faced with in response to the Biden administration terminating Trump-era policies designed to curtail illegal immigration. It states, “The pause on processing pathways (MPP, ACA, PACR) and recent policy changes have also impacted USBP’s ability to expeditiously process and remove those encountered … The USBP will be required to promptly process and release family units and single adults due to lack of adjudication pathways.”
This refers to the administration no longer adhering to the Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as the Remain in Mexico Policy, which a federal court has required the administration continue. Texas sued over MPP and the case is still in litigation.
ACA refers to the Trump-era Asylum Cooperation Agreement, which DHS entered into with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras on Dec. 29, 2020. The agreement enabled the federal government to more easily “remove certain eligible migrants seeking humanitarian protection to each of the ACA countries.” PACR refers to a fast-track asylum review process (Prompt Asylum Claim Review), which helped expedite this process.
Biden’s reversal of these policies contributed to unprecedented numbers of people attempting to enter the U.S. from Northern Triangle countries. The majority aren’t believed to have valid asylum claims, Moody and others have argued. After the federal government released and flew them nationwide in the middle of the night, including to Jacksonville, Florida sued.
Since Biden’s been in office, over 5 million foreign nationals have been apprehended or reported evading capture from law enforcement, including over 3.3 million in fiscal 2022 alone. Unless courts rule against the administration in multiple lawsuits brought against it, and their rulings are enforced, these numbers are expected to astronomically increase.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week, while claiming “the border is closed,” announced he planned to increase the processing and release of even more people into the U.S. once the public health authority Title 42 is lifted.
Notably, one of the talking points in an email thread states, “Mexico recently passed a law that precludes Mexican immigrants from detaining children, even if they are accompanied by adults/relatives/parents. This further impacts BP’s ability to expel family units under CDC T42 authority.”
The email implies that Mexican law has been dictating U.S. immigration detention and deportation policies, as critics have told The Center Square, also providing insight into Mayorkas altering Title 42 enforcement policies to rarely expel family units.
The email also states that in January 2021, BP agents were experiencing consecutive days of over 3,000 apprehensions a day and a continued surge of unaccompanied minors and family units would “immediately overwhelm USBP’s short term detention capacity … with an increased risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Instead of detaining or deporting family units who had the coronavirus, agents were instructed to release them, prompting Democratic run cities like Laredo to sue. Texas counties filed disaster declarations in April 2021 over the policy and Texas Gov. Abbott issued a disaster declaration May 31, 2021.
Moody says the records her office obtained “through our aggressive litigation efforts prove the Biden administration knew – as early as eight days after taking office – its destructive immigration policies were creating a colossal public safety crisis. The evidence that we fought ferociously to obtain is damning for the Biden administration, and we will continue to use his administration’s own actions and words against them in an attempt to force the president to follow the law.”