EXCLUSIVE: Florida’s lawsuit against the Biden administration over its so-called “catch-and-release” policy advanced Wednesday, with a federal judge saying that Biden’s policies have turned the southern border into “little more than a speedbump” for illegal immigrants.
In September 2021, the state of Florida sued the Biden administration over its “illegal” catch-and-release policies saying they cause harm to the state’s “quasi-sovereign interests,” while claiming officials are either in violation of federal immigration law, or simply abusing their authority. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed the suit against the administration as part of a joint effort with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to “uphold the rule of law despite the Biden administration’s decision to violate the law.”
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled Wednesday that the lawsuit can move forward, throwing out the Biden administration’s motion to dismiss the case, with Judge T. Kent Wetherell issuing a scathing opinion saying the court was “wholly unpersuaded” by the administration’s position.
FLORIDA SUES BIDEN ADMINISTRATION OVER CATCH-AND-RELEASE POLICY, ALLEGING VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW
“Today’s order is a huge win in our fight to force the Biden administration to fix the crisis by following the law. As the order states, ‘not even the President is above the law,’ and I look forward to advancing our case to hold the Biden administration accountable for ignoring public-safety immigration laws and turning our nation’s last bastion of protection into nothing more than a speedbump,” Moody said in an exclusive statement to Fox News Digital.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference on April 19, 2021.
(Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Wetherell’s order states that the Biden administration has “adopted and are implementing policies that contravene explicit mandates and restrictions in the immigration statutes and that the policies have effectively turned the southern border into little more than a speedbump for the hundreds of thousands of aliens who have flooded across the border into the country since January 2021 and the thousands more who are arriving at the border daily.”
Wetherell wrote that the court was unconvinced that the Biden administration has “unfettered discretion to determine how (or if) to comply with the immigration statutes and that there is nothing that Florida or this Court can do about their policies even if they contravene the immigration statutes.”
He called the Biden administration’s policy “as remarkable as it is wrong” because no one is above the law, including the president.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody visits the Lakeland Police Department to announce a hiring bonus for new Florida police officers at the Lakeland Police department in Lakeland Fl. Tuesday Sept. 7 2021.
(ERNST PETERS/ THE LEDGER/Reuters)
“Thus, if Florida’s allegations that Defendants are essentially flaunting the immigration laws are proven to be true, the Court most certainly can (and will) do something about it,” the judge’s opinion continues.
FEDS RELEASING ‘NUMEROUS’ MIGRANTS FAR FROM SOUTHERN BORDER IN ‘CATCH AND RELEASE’ SYSTEM ‘ON A GRANDER SCALE’
When Biden first took office in 2021, he signed several immigration-related executive orders, which included revoking then-President Trump’s order ending the catch and release policy, by which migrants were released into the interior after being apprehended.
“This is about how America is safer, stronger, more prosperous when we have a fair, orderly, and humane legal immigration system,” Biden said at the time.
Under the former Trump administration, the catch-and-release policy was limited due to the enforcement of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in 2019, also known as the Remain in Mexico program.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The Biden administration officially ended MPP in June and was sued by a several GOP-led states, which took the case all the way up to the Supreme Court. The high court is set to rule on it in the coming months.
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The administration is also facing backlash from both Democrats and Republicans for ending Title 42, a public health order set to expire on May 23 that has been used since March 2020 to quickly expel a majority of migrants at the border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Justice declined to comment on the opinion.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.
Kelly Laco is a politics editor for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to Kelly.Laco@Fox.com and on Twitter: @kelly_laco.