Judge indefinitely blocks Biden’s 100-day deportation pause

A protester and then-presidential hopeful Joe Biden in 2019
A protester objecting to then-presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s stance on deportations confronts him at a town hall meeting in 2019.
(Meg Kinnard / Associated Press)

A federal judge late Tuesday indefinitely banned the Biden administration from enforcing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations.

U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton issued a preliminary injunction sought by Texas, which argued that the moratorium violated federal law and risked imposing additional costs on the state. The injunction indefinitely extends a temporary restraining order that Tipton issued Jan. 26 and that was set to expire Tuesday.

Biden proposed the 100-day pause on deportations during his campaign as part of a larger review of immigration enforcement and an attempt to reverse the priorities of President Trump. Biden has proposed a sweeping immigration bill that would offer legal status to an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. He has also instituted other guidelines as to whom immigration and border agents should target for enforcement.


Issuing the temporary restraining order last month, Tipton, a Trump appointee, ruled that the moratorium violated federal law on administrative procedure and that the U.S. failed to show why a deportation pause was justified.

Tipton’s ruling did not require deportations to resume at their previous pace. Even without a moratorium, immigration agencies have wide latitude in enforcing removals and processing cases.

But in the days that followed his ruling, authorities deported 15 people to Jamaica and hundreds of others to Central America. The Biden administration has also continued expelling immigrants under a separate process begun by Trump officials, who invoked public-health law because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Biden’s deportation pause is challenged in court, he directs ICE to focus on ‘significant threats,’ such as suspected terrorists and felons.

Feb. 18, 2021

The legal fight over the deportation ban is an early sign of Republican opposition to Biden’s immigration priorities, just as Democrats and pro-immigrant legal groups fought Trump’s proposals. Almost four years before Tipton’s order, Trump signed a ban on travel from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations, which caused chaos at airports.

Legal groups successfully sued to stop implementation of the ban, and Biden has reversed it.

It was not immediately clear whether the Biden administration would appeal Tipton’s latest ruling. The Justice Department did not seek a stay of Tipton’s earlier temporary restraining order.