Advocacy groups file to intervene in Texas case blocking deportations


Guatemalans deported from the U.S., wearing protective face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic, deplane at the Aurora International Airport, in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/ Santiago Billy)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Two migrant advocacy groups in Texas have filed a court motion to further represent undocumented migrants in the state’s case that has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from stopping deportations.

The immigrant-led civil right organizations FIEL Houston, and Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) on Thursday filed an intervenors emergency motion in the State of Texas’ lawsuit in which a federal judge earlier this week granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the Biden administration from halting deportations for at least two weeks.

U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton, of the Southern District of Texas, on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order sought by Texas, which on Friday had sued against a Department of Homeland Security memo that instructed immigration agencies to pause most migrant deportations for 100 days. The lawsuit was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who claimed the mortarium is unconstitutional, and a violation of federal immigration and an agreement between the State of Texas and DHS.

Migrant advocates were outraged by the TRO, and the ACLU of Texas had even filed a brief asking the court to deny Paxton’s request.

On Thursday, the ACLU of Texas joined in the new motion by representing FIEL and RAICES. In a tweet, the organization said “the stakes are life and death.”

“The 100-day deportation pause and immediate immigration reforms are critical first steps in ensuring all people are treated with dignity and fairness. Our clients have seen and experienced the damage caused by the Trump administration and seek to intervene to ensure their concerns are heard,” Kate Huddleston, a lawyer for the ACLU of Texas said in a statement.

Cody Wofsy, an ACLU staff lawyer with the organization’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in trying to pause deportations for 100 days, the Biden administration would have the opportunity to fairly reassess immigration enforcement and changes made during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske issued a Jan. 20 memo just hours after President Joe Biden took office, directing his agency to set interim policies and to conduct a review of all current enforcement policies as well as a 100-day pause on the deportation of certain migrants. This does not include migrants apprehended in border regions, those suspected of terrorism or espionage or considered a threat to society.

But Texas sued on Friday and Tipton has granted a TRO.

“The injunction that Texas seeks will place noncitizens around the country at risk of deportation, even though many of them have paths to regularize their immigration status, claim humanitarian protection, or seek long-term grants of prosecutorial discretion in their favor,” according to the ACLU’s motion.

The motion filed Thursday, if approved by the court, would allow the nonparty — called an intervenor — to join the ongoing litigation without the permission of the original litigants, which is the state of Texas.

Both organizations represent “vulnerable noncitizens at risk of deportation and other serious adverse consequences if Texas is successful,” according to the motion filed Thursday with the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Texas Victoria Division.

“We are seeking to intervene in this lawsuit because the 100-day moratorium on removals can drastically and positively impact the lives of our clients and we are committed to fighting for them every step of the way,” Tami Goodlette, director of litigation for RAICES, said in a statement.

Said Cesar Espinosa, executive director of FIEL: “We are proud to join the ACLU in protecting the immigrant community. The … past administration was very detrimental to our community, so we are looking for all possible avenues to continue to defend our members. We hope to send a clear message that just like those who seek to do us harm, we will not back down. We will organize our community in the streets, walk the halls of Congress and continue to stand up for our families in court.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at

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