Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton could learn from the old football cliché: when you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, in response to a Paxton-led lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton granted a 14-day temporary restraining order against a Biden administration moratorium on deportations. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office which gave a 100-day pause on deportation of illegal immigrants with final deportation orders. The court ruling was a fair one, and not a surprise. Neither was Paxton’s overblown victory lap. His TRO was more touchback than touchdown.
The justification for Biden’s executive order was to give the Department of Homeland Security a break to coordinate a reset of its priorities. In a memo from Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske, the administration cited limited resources and announced plans to “coordinate a Department-wide review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement.”
Biden and his team have every right to review policies and reset priorities. That’s expected for a new administration. But federal agencies don’t get to stop doing their work while they plan for the future. The Postal Service doesn’t stop delivering mail when postmasters hold an offsite meeting. The military doesn’t close bases when it gets a new commander in chief. Americans should expect DHS to be able to review internal policies without abandoning its post.
We weren’t surprised that Judge Tipton, a Trump appointee, saw it that way. Nor that Gov. Greg Abbott agreed when he tweeted support for Tipton’s decision.
“ President Biden is trying to halt deportations of illegal aliens who already have a final order of removal from the U.S. This abandons the obligation to enforce federal immigration laws,” Abbott wrote.
We’d also note that you don’t have to agree with the policy results Paxton and others are calling for to recognize that the role of the federal judiciary here was to adhere to legal standards as the Biden administration sorts out its policy reforms. In any case, as of Jan. 16, there were about 1.2 million cases of non-detained immigrants with final orders of removal, and another 6,000 such cases for people in custody, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement said Monday, Jan. 25.
Biden’s moratorium was poorly reasoned, but Paxton is the politician whose cynicism takes the cake. He immediately oversold his “victory,” blasting the news via Twitter and a press release, calling Biden’s order a “seditious left-wing insurrection” and claiming “WE WON.” Paxton, a staunch supporter of a president currently being tried for inciting insurrection, seems to have a twisted understanding of that word.
In reality, Paxton hasn’t won anything. The ruling was a temporary injunction and a minor achievement. Call it a first down. Paxton acted like it was a Super Bowl victory.
The courts will have to untangle the immigration mess. The Biden administration has four years to figure out how to adjust its policies while still enforcing immigration laws. And in the meantime, Paxton will continue his end zone celebration dances.
Let him dance. After all, after being indicted for fraud, facing whistleblower complaints from his staff and allegations of bribery, and trailing a colossal streak of losing efforts to challenge the 2020 election, any victory must feel good right now.