A federal judge in Florida on Wednesday agreed with the state’s Republican attorney general that the policy of President Joe Biden’s administration to release many people who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexican border rather than detaining them violates U.S. immigration law.
U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell in Pensacola blocked the administration from continuing to implement a 2021 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo that had authorized “alternatives to detention” to ease overcrowding in detention facilities. These alternatives included ankle bracelets, phone monitoring or check-ins by immigration officers. Republican critics have called the policy “catch and release.”
In a decision that aligns with the stance of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Judge Wetherell – a Trump-appointed judge – ruled that current law does not grant federal immigration authorities the authority to implement alternatives to detention widely. Consequently, the policy was challenged and ultimately struck down. However, the administration has the option to file an appeal within seven days before Wetherell’s decision becomes effective.
Moody said in a statement that the judge’s decision “affirms what we have known all along, (that) President Biden is responsible for the border crisis and his unlawful immigration policies make this country less safe.”
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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