Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading 20 states who are suing the Biden administration over a federal migrant parole program announced earlier this month.
The program established a pathway for up to 30,000 migrants each month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to petition for asylum in the U.S. President Joe Biden launched the program as part of a series of new border enforcement actions, which also includes a commitment from the Mexican government to accept up to 30,000 migrants from those four countries if they don't meet the requirements for asylum or parole.
In a press release, on Tuesday, Paxton's office argued that the program "unlawfully creates a de facto pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of aliens."
Along with Texas, 19 mostly GOP-led states joined the suit filed in the U.S. District Court's Southern District of Texas.
"Every state in America, especially border states like Texas, is being crushed by the impacts of illegal immigration. The Biden open borders agenda has created a humanitarian crisis that is increasing crime and violence in our streets, overwhelming local communities, and worsening the opioid crisis," Paxton said.
"This unlawful amnesty program, which will invite hundreds of thousands of aliens into the U.S. every year, will only make this immigration crisis drastically worse," he continued.
An administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday on the Biden's enforcement actions said they are confident they have the legal authority to implement this program.
“Many leaders of these states keep claiming we need to secure the border, but then they turned around and try to block every measure that we take to do just that,” the official said. “They don't want real solutions They would rather just keep using immigration to try to score political points.”
That view echoes what the White House said earlier this month, accusing Republicans in office of "playing political games and obstructing real solutions to fix our broken immigration system."
"Until and unless Congress delivers the funding as well as comprehensive immigration reform measures President Biden requested, the United States' broken immigration system will indeed remain broken," the White House said then.
Preliminary data released Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security showed the new border enforcement measures, which include the parole program, are working, department officials insisted.
Border Patrol apprehensions of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans are down 97% since December. The average number of migrant apprehensions from those countries -- a key indicator of illegal migration -- is at 115 per day, down from 3,367 per day at the beginning of December, according to the agency.
But some immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers have also criticized the president's parole program for, they say, providing too-narrow a pathway for migrants to seek asylum.
In order to apply, asylum-seekers must meet strict requirements like applying from their home countries and must have a sponsor in the U.S. who can be financially responsible for them. The agreement with Mexico to expel up to 30,000 migrants each month from the four countries also opens the door for more expulsions under Title 42, a public health policy implemented under President Donald Trump in the early days of COVID-19 that quickly expels and prevents migrants from seeking asylum, citing the threat of viral spread.
Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and California's Alex Padilla issued a joint statement after the president's announcement earlier this month. The three took particular issue with the continued use of Title 42 for migrant expulsions.
"Continuing to use this failed and inhumane Trump-era policy put in place to address a public health crisis will do nothing to restore the rule of law at the border. Instead, it will increase border crossings over time and further enrich human smuggling networks," they said. "We are pleased to see an increase in the access to parole for Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Haitians, but this narrow benefit will exclude thousands of migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability or economic means to qualify for the new parole process."
America First Legal, a conservative group launched by former Trump aide Stephen Miller, is also involved in the case. Alaska is one of the 20 states as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, claiming they face "substantial, irreparable harms from the Department's abuses of its parole authority, which allow potentially hundreds of thousands of additional aliens to enter each of their already overwhelmed territories."
The lawsuit claims, in part, that 5,000-11,000 immigrants live illegally in Alaska, which claims it spends up to $72 million a year in education, health care, public assistance and general government services for them.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy director at the American Immigration Council, said Alaska's involvement in the suit shows "how fundamentally unserious" it is.
"That Alaska is trying to claim that a program allowing Cubans to enter the country legally is going to create an increase in undocumented immigrants in Alaska is fundamentally unserious," Reichlin-Melnick said. "No person should be able to say that with a straight face. Alaska is not going to be overwhelmed by migrants -- that's just reality."
"They are not attached to the continental United States and that would require migrants to travel all the way to the border, cross the border, cross into Canada, travel through Canada and then cross back into the United States to get to Alaska," Reichlin-Melnick said.
The suit is the latest legal battle that border-adjacent and largely GOP-led states have waged against the Biden administration's immigration policies, which they call "reckless." These states have tried in multiple cases to undermine the federal government's agenda on a wide range of issues, including Biden's attempt to dismantle Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy and to continue to exclude young migrants from imminent deportation.
The new lawsuit also takes issue with the fact that the parole program was rolled out without going through the notice and comment rule-making process, which the states allege the administration is required to do.
However, another program targeting Ukrainian citizens fleeing the Russian invasion that was launched in April 2021 establishes similar requirements for asylum-seekers. It has not been met with a legal challenge, Reichlin-Melnick noted.
"We're seeing them filing a lawsuit attempting to block Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians and Latinos from entering the United States through the exact same means by which Ukrainians have been allowed in to no legal challenge at all on the part of the same plaintiffs," he said.