By Jana J. Pruet
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against the Biden Administration over a new asylum rule that he argues encourages immigrants to unlawfully enter the United States through the use of a mobile app.
Paxton claims in his lawsuit that the Biden administration intentionally streamlined the preapproval process for immigrants who might otherwise be denied entry (pdf).
“The Biden Administration deliberately conceived of this phone app with the goal of illegally preapproving more foreign aliens to enter the country and go where they please once they arrive,” Paxton announced on May 23 in a press release.
“Joe Biden, Alejandro Mayorkas, and the entire Biden Administration have prioritized creating and protecting new ways for illegal aliens to stream into this country, no matter the cost or consequence to struggling American citizens. Time after time, my office has shown that we will fight back in court to defeat their unlawful open-borders policies. We intend to stop this rule from wreaking further havoc on the people of Texas.”
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) CBP One app, launched in late October 2020, was recently expanded to allow immigrants to schedule appointments at a point of entry to be processed. The app is available for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
The lawsuit targets the Biden administration’s Final Rule that rolled out as the Title 42 public health order ended on May 10.
Under the newly-implemented rule, migrants are presumed to be ineligible for asylum if they failed to claim asylum in a country through which they traveled or if they crossed into the U.S. illegally. Unaccompanied children are not subject to the rule.
However, migrants who schedule an appointment through the CBP One app will not be barred from asylum under the new rule.
“The final rule is designed to address the current and anticipated surge in immigration throughout the hemisphere and further discourage irregular migration by: encouraging migrants to use lawful, safe, and orderly processes for entering the United States and other partner nations, imposing conditions on asylum eligibility for those who fail to do so; and supporting the swift return of migrants who fail to do so; and supporting the swift return of migrants who do not have valid protection claims,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) “Fact Sheet: Circumvention of Lawful Pathways Final Rule.“
The fact sheet dated May 11 goes on to add that DHS has taken “significant steps to expand safe and orderly pathways for migrants to lawfully enter the United States.”
Paxton is pushing back, citing that federal law is clear that “those entering the country illegally should be expelled from the United States, except in rare circumstances.”
He says the app is the Biden administration’s attempt to “circumvent” the law to “streamline” the process of illegal immigration.
“However, the Biden border app does not and cannot verify that an illegal immigrant would qualify for an exception, which would prevent them from being deported,” Paxton said in the release.
Paxton’s lawsuit aims to “permanently enjoin the rule and prevent it from drawing continued immigration surges at the U.S.-Mexico border.”
Troubles in the House
Earlier this week, Paxton called for the resignation of Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, accusing him of being drunk while presiding over proceedings on the House floor on May 19.
Videos circulating online showed Phelan appearing to have difficulty speaking during the proceedings. His behavior appeared normal during most of the two-part session that lasted approximately 14 hours.
None of the other lawmakers appeared to question Phelan’s behavior, and his speech seemed normal minutes later. The Republican lawmaker’s office has offered no explanation. Some have speculated he may have had a medical emergency.
Paxton also requested the Texas House General Investigating Committee to open an investigation into the matter.
The speaker’s office said Paxton’s call for Phelan’s resignation was motivated by the House Ethics Committee’s investigation of a $3.3 million whistleblower settlement the attorney general reached with four former employees who accused him of corruption.
“This afternoon, the Texas House General Investigating Committee directed the issuance of a preservation letter to the Office of the Attorney General, the state agency that is the subject of ‘Matter A,’ to ensure that all evidence relevant to the committee’s inquiry is not destroyed or concealed,” Cait Wittman, spokesperson for Phelan, told The Epoch Times in a statement.
Wittman said Paxton’s claims about Phelan “amount to little more than a last-ditch effort to save face.”
On Thursday, a 42-year-old woman was arrested by the Texas Department of Public Safety for allegedly starting a dumpster fire outside Paxton’s offices on May 23. A video posted to the AG Twitter account showed a video of the woman discarding what appears to be a cigarette into a waste receptacle.
As it turns out, the fire was unintentionally started by a cigarette that the woman tossed into the dumpster behind the building.
But the incident sparked some reports speculating about the cause of the fire.
“I strongly condemn the irresponsible and reckless speculation by journalists and other public figures who misled the public about the nature of this crime,” Paxton said in a statement.
“the employees who work in this building could have been injured or killed if this fire had not been detected early and extinguished. I have no doubt that those with a responsibility for informing the public of the truth will issue retractions and apologize for spreading disinformation about this incident.”
The woman was charged with criminal mischief equal to or greater than $25,000 but less than $30,000, according to the Attorney General’s office.